Consumers are finally getting over the minutia on the debate of who does it better in Piedmont, the traditionalist or the modernist wine maker, but where will the conversation go when when the discussion turns to terra cotta?
Philosophical changes are inevitable in the viticultural landscape as trends seem to work their way through the market.
In the 80s and 90s, it was the widespread use of French barrique that upended the cultural norms of Piedmont, pitting father against son and brother against brother.
Now, nearly thirty years later, it’s clay amphora drawing attention in the cellar.
Brought about in other parts of the world where progressive winemaking methods of pushing the envelope are more common, wines that are made with Amphora are easy to find in Chile, Argentina, Australia, Spain and the U.S., but less common for the classic wine regions of the world.
After visiting over one hundred wineries this year in the Langa, it was a surprise to discover that nearly one in ten producers are using amphora and that the sudden rise in global popularity fermenting and or aging wine in this format has permeated its way into Piedmont.
Most producers in the Langa state that they are open to experimenting with clay
But there are a few producers already releasing wine to market.
Massolino has an experimental batch Riesling aged in amphora while Paolo Manzone will be the first producer in the Langa to make a Barolo Riserva that has been aged in clay.
When asked how aging Barolo in amphora was DOGC compliant, Manzone said that the part of the law that requires the wine to age in bottle can be technically be used as clay and that somehow that makes sense to and is fine with the consortzio.
All of this begs the greater question, can a Barolo truly be Barolo if it is aged in clay and what will that Barolo taste like?
The porosity of the container increases oxygenation and allow wines to be ready to drink sooner, plus it imparts the unmistakable texture in a wine that only amphora can accomplish.
Harkening back to barrique, it was the same question back then; could a Barolo truly be a Barolo if it is aged in barrique?
Producers began using this type of barrel for the same reasons; to make their wines more accessible and drinkable sooner and while there was resistance to this methodically at first, it is now a common practice through out the region.
Moving forward, it will be interesting to see if terra-cotta will be met with the same kind of staying power as barrique or if it will be a fleeting fancy of the vignaioli.