Alentejo Vinho de Talha, amphora & ‘Pote de Barro’ wines

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DOC Vinho de Talha rules introduced in 2010 aim to preserve core traditions.  They provide that:

  • the grapes must be de-stemmed;
  • the fermentation must be undertaken in impermeable pots (‘talha’);
  • the wine and the skins must remain in talha until November 11th (St. Martin’s day); and
  • the grapes must be sourced from (and permitted by) Alentejo’s DOC sub-regions (Borba, Évora, Granja-Amareleja, Moura, Portalegre, Redondo, Reguengos and Vidigueira).

I’ve been entranced by talha wines since my 2015 visit with traditional and contemporary talha wine makers, reported in two posts, here and here.  It is worth emphasising that there can be a world of difference between the two (which I have categorised separately below), additionally between Vinho de Talha DOC wines and those wines (let’s call them hybrid) which ferment in talha without skins or on skins but only for a short period.

Typically made by producers whose bread and butter is mainstream wines, contemporary talha/amphora styles tend to be fresher, with more refined phenolics/tannins.  Benchmark Vinho de Talha DOC examples have texture and layer thanks to skin contact.  And they are capable of great finesse in the right hands and the right pot!  Check out my Decanter report here on Portugal’s most expensive wine release – Herdade do Rocim Jupiter Code 01 2015.   Whilst friendly, entry level contemporary Vinho de Talha and ‘hybrid’ examples can be a little too ‘clean’ and less interesting for it.

Conversely, the more traditional styles from dedicated talha makers now bottling their wines can tip into oxidative and lack freshness and/or detail.  But the best are spicy and multi-layered.  Technically trained winemakers are, perhaps, better able to hedge against losing purity and freshness without losing personality or ‘soul.’  Treading the line brilliantly, XXVI Talhas are a case in point.

As this tasting demonstrated, quality and style is varied within each category.  The different grapes, terroir and pots themselves (clay density, porosity, size and condition) influence the resulting wines and, where bottling these wines is a relatively new development, inevitably producers are still finding their way.

If you are interested to find out more, the Alentejo Wine Commission has published a terrific guide with video interviews about the history and evolution of talha wines here.

The chapter about talha wines in Simon Woolf’s and Ryan Opaz’s new book, ‘Foot Trodden, Portugal and The Wines That Time Forgot,’ is a great read on the traditional culture of (unbottled) talha wines.

The Centro Interpretativo do Vinho de Talha opened at Praça 25 de Abril 11-14, Vila de Frades, in 2020 to lead visitors through the history, culture and process of talha winemaking.  Moves are afoot to reinforce the culture and tradition of talha wines yet further by applying for UNESCO Intangible Heritage Cultural status.

Last September, a group of producers independently established the Association of Vinho de Talha Producers (APVT) to protect and promote traditional talha wines with their own seal of identity and quality.  You will see ‘APVT’ alongside the names of producer members below.


Kvevri winemaking in Izrail- Kadma Winery’s Grand Opening

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Kadma is located in Kfar Uriya, where the wine making tradition dates back to biblical times, as evidenced by the ancient stone hewn crushing floors and wine storage pools that can still be seen throughout the area. When they decided to establish their winery, winemaker Lina Slutzkin and her extremely supportive husband Vlad wanted to include ancient wine making elements in the process. From her childhood in Soviet Georgia Gruzia Lina remembered local wines being made in huge clay vessels, and she decided to look into it.

via 17 Nov 2011 – Kadma Winery’s Grand Opening « Yossi’s Wine Page.

Tony Aspler’s notes from the International Qvevri Wine Symposium.

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In the evening, to the courtyard of the Georgian National Museum for the opening ceremonies of the symposium. We’re greeted by a group of singers performing traditional polyphonic music – a kind of local barbershop quartet times two. The symposium is underwritten by the United States. The US ambassador to Georgia John Ball says, in his opening remarks, “Nothing important in Georgia happens without wine.

via Tony Aspler: The Wine Guy.

The FINANCIAL – Georgia Aiming to Hold Top Place in the List of Wine Tourism Countries

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“We have a list of the best ‘maranis’ which are already prepared to receive international visitors. The majority of such places are located in Kakheti. But some other regions including Racha, Imereti, Guria, Qartli and Ajara have great potential,” Sidamonidze stated.The list is published on the special webpage There is detailed information about Kakheti, the biggest region of vineyards in Georgia. Information about 16 maranis at Kakheti with all details including price, possibilities of accommodation, Georgian cuisine, souvenir shops and guides are available on this webpage. All necessary information about tour operators is published on this webpage as well. Each tour operator offers their own programme with different services and prices.

via The FINANCIAL – Georgia Aiming to Hold Top Place in the List of Wine Tourism Countries.


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ANCIENT KVEVRI WINE COULD BOLSTER WINE TOURISM AND EXPORTS The ancient – and dying – technique of making wine in clay vessels could be Georgia’s key to bolstering wine tourism and wine exports, industry specialists believe. Now the country has to work on getting the word out.


Darrell give us his impressions of our trip to Georgia and the First Qvevri

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Darrell give us his impressions of our trip to Georgia and the First Qvevri

via Darrell on the Symposium – YouTube.

New Wine Festival 2011 Georgia

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New Wine Festival 2011 Georgia

via makhowine’s Channel – YouTube.

The First International Qvevri Symposium – Green & Blue Wines

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In 2006, Russia imposed a ban on Georgian wine. A considerable blow and a blessing at the same time. The Russian market had been huge but entirely undiscerning, thirsty only for cheap alcohol in any form. Suddenly, Georgian producers had to find new buyers for this stuff but their initial forays into the Western markets soon revealed that against a tide of similar sewage from far more established exporters, they had almost no takers.

At the same time, some much smaller, more traditional producers were starting to get far more attention with their Qvevri wines from indigenous varietals. The big producers took notice and now a lot of big wineries still make entry level ‘technical’ wines for markets like Poland along side smaller quantities of the much more traditional.

One of the vice presidents of Constellation Brands visited Georgia recently. Constellation are one of the Dark Stars of the world; a vast, multinational company involved in the entire range of alcohols including processed, heavily branded wines. Depending on where you are with wine, such a man will either be venerated or stand for all that is amiss but the point is that at a talk he gave for local wine makers, he said that there only reason why the outside world would be interested in Georgian wine is because of the Qvevri fermentation.

Now that is really something.

And he is of course, completely right.

via The First International Qvevri Symposium – Green & Blue Wines.

Abkhazia Institute – The President of Georgia met with the representatives of the local government of Kakheti in Kvare

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We have been fighting to eliminate losses in the recent years, the trademark was not protected…the people of Russian descent produced our wine in the US, practically every Georgian brand. We have now moved these people aside through the legal processes. The previous government sold Khvanchkara and other wine brands to Bulgaria and companies of other countries. It was an unbelievable chaos. Taking care of these problems took us 5-6 years, but now our top priority is an active campaign. By of the way, we have allocated money to open a wine bar in the center of the Capital of the United States

via Abkhazia Institute – The President of Georgia met with the representatives of the local government of Kakheti in Kvare.

Georgia: Betting on Clay and Kvevri for Entrée into International Wine Markets |

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“Basically, the Italian winemakers, who took kvevri from Georgia and make kvevri wine, have created a category for the Georgians,” said Chris Terrell, a California-based importer of Georgian wines. “Their [Italian] wines are already selling very, very expensively, so now these [Georgian] wines come in and they have very good value for the people who know.”

Josko Gravner amphora wines, made with Georgian kvevris, range from $50 to $150 in the US; more than a twofold difference with the retail price of one Georgian-made kvevri wine sold in New York City.

Terrell says that the kvevri wines he imports from Georgia fare better in the “high quality, organically-farmed, all-natural wines” market than do Georgian mainstream brands in the table-wine segment. “The quality is getting better, but the labeling and packaging could use some improvement,” he elaborated.

Along with such improvements, observers also say that Georgian wine needs aggressive advertising to raise its profile in new markets like the US. To further this goal, a recent wine symposium, sponsored by the US Agency for International Development, drew a crowd of western oenophiles to Kakheti to experience kvevri culture amid the grape-harvesting season, or rtveli.

At Alaverdi, a 6th-11th century monastery set against the Caucasus’ soaring backdrop, monks served up from their kvevri cellars a heady, dry red Saperavi and a pungent, amber-tinged white Kisi wine.

As the visitors sipped the brew, one New York City restaurateur reported a growing customer interest in Georgian wine, while a Texas potter recounted how a surprise kvevri order from a local wine producer had prompted his decision to travel to Georgia and study the craft.

Yet despite all the fascination with the kvevri, specialists caution that the time-consuming, painstaking nature of making the amphora and its wine will prevent the method’s use from becoming widespread. Larger companies within Georgia are building kvevri wine cellars, but these serve as smaller attractions for tourists and wine aesthetes; not as mission-critical infrastructure.

Using amphoras, a wine company “can produce a maximum of 20-25 tons of kvevri wines,” said Tevzadze. That compares with a volume in the hundreds of tons for more modern methods. Each of the 15 Georgian wineries in the Kvevri Foundation produces just three to 10 tons of wine per season, he added.

“Making wine in a kvevri is so laborious and also expensive that it will never become mainstream,” said Tevzadze.

One successful American winemaker based in Georgia, though, says this is not necessarily bad news for the country’s kvevri winemakers. John Wurdeman, owner of the Pheasant’s Tears winery, believes kvevri aficionados should stay true to the terra-cotta vessels’ reputation for earthy-tasting wines of small volume, but high quality. Said Wurdeman: “It’s a niche product for a niche market.”

via Georgia: Betting on Clay and Kvevri for Entrée into International Wine Markets |

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