Ancient Winemaking Technique Revived in Napa
Most winemakers are interested in the latest technology and newest techniques. Dave Del Dotto of Del Dotto Vineyards in California is seeking to take a step backward, fermenting some of his wines in giant clay amphorae, the vessels used by the ancient winemakers to make wine. Del Dotto, who is also completing a new property with wine caves and a marble-columned room south of St. Helena, bought four amphorae in Tuscany. The clay vessels are said to be 300 years old and cost him $15,000 each. He has so far made Sangiovese, Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon and his first official release will be a 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon that will be available in the fall. The wine will be bottled in clay magnums and will sell for around $100. In this article in Wines & Vines, Del Dotto says he is happy with the result and will be buying custom-made clay fermentation vessels because it adds an earthy quality to the wine. The clay fermentation also softens the tannins in red wine. Del Dotto plans to experiments with whine wine and to bury some of the jars the way ancient winemakers did.