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Call it "jug wine" if you will, but ambitious wineries are experimenting with amphora aging, and getting spectacular results.
It may well have been one of Plato’s posse who first came up with aging wine in an amphora. Suffice to say this “next big thing” has been around for a few millennia, but it had been on the wane for the last 2,400 or so years before a cadre of earnest young European winemakers started to revive the practice a few years back. The idea is that the clay vessel, with its high level of breathability, is far superior to both the pretty aggressive oak barrel and the lifeless clinical stainless steel in expressing the grapes’ true terroir. It’s an idea that’s caught on with those seeking a less interventionist style of winemaking, and it’s landed here with some pretty impressive results.
Okanagan Crush Pad has been pushing the envelope since day one, and their Haywire Switchback Vineyard Pinot Gris Wild Ferment takes this normally staid grape in wild (literally) new directions. It’s cloudy (and not exactly “white”), it’s bracing, and you’ll definitely have a strong opinion one way or the other on this natural wonder—I love it. Also playing jug music is Laughing Stock, whose Amphora VR 2014, a blend of viognier and roussanne, tastes like it could have been served at Nero’s wedding—honeyed toast with some rind-y marmalade lightly spread on top. Even more out there is CedarCreek’s Amphora Project Cabernet Sauvignon, using a varietal heretofore largely ignored by the natural-wine folk. But here the wine is a zippy, bright, juicy-clean expression of a grape that’s all too often buried in oak.
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