Throughout the 10,000 year history of wine, we have been in a duet of innovation naturally existing between humans and earth. The way we scurry around the planet has been shaped so that we might maintain this steady and heady connection. Clay, wood, and glass are great examples of earth materials that have shaped this relationship between man and planet, which can be seen throughout the history of wine storage and transportation. A glimpse at the ancient cultures of Georgia and Gaul, as well as 17th century Europe introduces us to wine vessels that have influenced wine production up to today. Without these “essential” materials provided by our very own planet, what would we be doing?
CLAY & RKATSITELI
The plasticity of clay is ideal for producing vessels suited to the storage of liquids such as wine, as well as other types of goods. Upon firing, a clay pot becomes nearly indestructible. And, pottery is porous, making it able to absorb its liquid contents for millennia until chemically extracted. Some of the oldest found evidence of wine’s existence is in the region of Transcaucasia (now Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan), dating back to 6,000 B.C.E.
LOCATION: Kakheti, Georgia
STYLE & STRUCTURE: Macerated on skins for many months, producing strong orange wine
WOOD & LAGREIN
It was really the vast appetite of the Romans that led to the transition from clay to wooden barrels as the vessel of choice for wine storage and transportation. In the Alpine forest regions of Gaul, the Celts were discovered to be storing wine and beer in wooden barrels. Romans quickly dropped their use of clay amphorae for this more robust earth material.
LOCATION: Alto Adige, Italy
STYLE & STRUCTURE: Intensely fruity, deeply colored, rustic tannins
GLASS & RIESLING
Due to the over abundant use of Europe’s forests to create the high heat necessary for glassmaking, King James I decreed that coal be used instead. Along with Kenelm Digby’s furnace innovations, greater heat was generated, leading to stronger glass. The green fluted bottle of Germany is an example of the new malleability and strength found in 17th century glass.
LOCATION: Mosel Valley, Germany
STYLE & STRUCTURE: Yellow in color, rich aromatics of apricot and lemon and a full bodied, possibly sweet, palette