In association with Heron’s Flight winery, Morris & James is working to create traditional "anfora"* vessels for the fermentation of wine, an ancient method used since 6000 BC. Made from terracotta clay the anfora wine fermentation vessel is slightly porous, allowing a small amount of air into the wine as it ferments. This naturally discourages the growth of bacteria and mould, reducing the need for disinfecting sulphites. It also produces a uniquely flavoured wine compared to wine aged in wooden barrels.
Ian Foote who heads the project at Morris & James has been working closely with Heron’s Flight Chief Wine maker, Stefano Guidi, to create a range of functional prototypes. The first prototype Ian created was a large 500 litre anfora, made by layering extruded clay strips, and patiently joining each strip individually before adding another. This process took two weeks to complete, and it was not without its challenges. The most difficult problem was drying the base. Usually pots are turned upside down to dry once the rim is firm enough to support the weight, so that the upper and lower surfaces of the base can dry at similar rates. It was not practical to turn such a large a pot upside down because of the risk of breaking it. As a result the drying was uneven and the base cracked.
A second trial anfora was then made, smaller than the first one to hold 100 litres. This time ventilation holes were drilled in the wooden bat on which the pot was standing. The method was successful and the anfora did not crack. It is now at Heron’s Flight Vineyard where it is being used for winemaking trials. Together Ian and Stefano are fine-tuning the prototype by applying beeswax onto the interior wall of the vessel.
If you'd like to learn more about the ancient partnership of terracotta and wine, here is more information from Artenova, a pottery based in Florence: http://jars.terracotta-artenova.com/terracotta-wine/ Ian will be visiting Artenova later this month while touring the region with his wife Sophie.
Originally from Tuscany, Stefano Guidi from Heron’s Flight imported a 500 litre anfora made in Florence in his shipping container when he made the move to Warkworth in January 2015. Experienced in making wine the traditional way, Stefano made Heron’s Flight flagship premium 2015 Sangiovese in his imported anfora. The result is a uniquely flavoured wine that exhibits soft tannins and beautiful floral aromas, and is low in sulphites.
*"Amphora" is English pronunciation of "Anfora"