Talha wine in Portugal is a long tradition in Alentejo lands. 2,000 years ago wine had already been produced in large clay pots around these parts. The good news is that Talha wine is not lost in history...
Talha or amphora wine is produced in large clay pots. Yes, in these big pots that we find spread all over the country. If we think about the Portuguese universe, this tradition really comes from the Alentejo, but there are other countries in Europe where this type of wine has as much or more history. This is the case of Georgia, where the Talhas are named Quevri, Spain, where they are called Tinaja or even Italy, where they can be called anfore, orci or giare.
The Amphora is the oldest storage and transport deposit known in the history of man. Historically, these clay pots would be used in all stages of wine production, whether in alcoholic fermentation, malolactic, during the amphora wine ageing and even for its transportation.
At the national level, we know that in Alentejo there is a record of the production of Talha wine for 2,000 years, but if we open borders and go back to the real origins of this type of wine, it is known that the first amphora wines would have been produced 6,000 years ago in the Caucasus, currently Georgia territory, and believed to be the place where this type of production will have started.
The process of Talha wine is simple, but it requires knowledge that fortunately has been passed down from generation to generation. Talhas are normally waterproofed with “pez”, in an operation that requires mastery and is called “pesgagem”. “Pez” is an ideally inert resin that is placed on the clay walls inside the Amphora. Afterwards, the grapes are usually destemmed and placed inside the cut. Fermentation starts spontaneously.
Talha wines are essentially “natural” or minimal intervention wines.
During alcoholic fermentation, the grapes are punched down twice a day with the help of a squeegee. After alcoholic fermentation ends, malolactic and the closing of the Talha’s mouths closing are follows in order to protect the wine from oxidation. The ancients used olive oil in order to block oxygen from entering air to the wine, but this is now an unusual practice.
When closing the Talha, some people use beeswax in order to waterproof the sealing area at the mouth of the Amphora. It is around S. Martinho day, 11th November, that the new wine is tasted and, for this, taps are placed just above the area at the base of the Talha and open.
Portuguese Talha wine is a heritage that is taking on new life with producers and winemakers recreating traditional Alentejo methods and experimenting with new techniques applied in these giant clay pots. The amphora wine is peculiar, but quickly captivating.
In addition to being wines full of character, they are wines that emanate history and stories. It is worth getting to know them, not only for the taste, but for the experience.
If you are unable to get to Alentejo, enjoy some of the bottled amphora wines that are already on sale.
The best way to buy Talha wine is to go to the small Alentejo villages in the Vidigueira area. I suggest one in Vila Alva Adega do Mestre Daniel, where we produce our amphora wine. Or buy online, on our website or at our Cellar Door, in Estoril.