Herdade do Rocim Amphora 2020

Amazingly, its possible to taste wines today like the best made in Roman times. And while its reasonable to think wines made in ancient times were rather crude or nearly undrinkable by modern standards, in fact, they had the capacity to be as clean and freshly fruited as anything produced in the modern era. Ancient winemaking technology is now our newest. 

The only place where Romanesque wine wines have survived continuously for 2000 years is in a cluster of tiny villages within southern Portugal’s Alentejo region. Less than a decade ago they were nearly extinct and virtually unknown out side the area. A handful of die hard traditionalists clung to their Roman-era practice that fermented and aged wine in terracotta pots, called Talha. A little taller than a human, each Talha contained enough wine to fill 1500 bottles, more than enough to keep an extended family nicely supplied for a year.  

Popularly mistaken as amphora, Talha are brilliant winemaking machines. Harvested grapes are dumped in the top where they ferment into wine. Eventually all the skins and seeds and stems settle to the bottom creating a natural filter through which the wine is drained directly into glasses at the bottom of the pot.  No chemicals or additives, just grapes and native yeast and gravity naturally doing their thing together. 

After a few weeks of maturation, the Talha are officially blessed by priests on St. Martins Day in early November. The community comes together to celebrate, stoppers are opened for the first time and the new wine is shared around during an all day party. Each Talha continues to provide its daily duty of filling glasses throughout the year until the cycle is renewed on the next St. Martins Day. 

The good news is this nearly extinct tradition is thriving again.  Where once it was considered by many to be a best forgotten, primitive leftover practice from the past, a younger generation of modern Alentejian winemakers have re-elevated it to its ‘pride of place’ position, restoring this unique identity for the region once again. 

One of my favorite producers of Talha wine is Herdade do Rocim. The young team there have done much to actively promote Talha wine around the world. Every November they host ‘Amphora Day’ Festival where participants can taste dozens of newly minted Talha wine: https://rocim.pt/news/amphora-wine-day-november-11th-herdade-do-rocim/

Herdade do Rocim Amphora 2020 12% 

This comes in white (Branco) or red (Tinto) versions. I love both of them to pieces. The Tinto is full of fresh cherry and redberry fruitiness, fine and slick in the mouth, with remarkable flavor length. 17/20 The Branco offers lovely floral and citrus characters. Creamy smooth, it’s cut through with refreshingly tart, edgy acidity. 16.5/20 

Simple, direct and so pure, I can drink both till the cows come home. Best consumed as babies, but they are definitely most fun when poured straight out of the Talha that made them.