BODEGAS S’AMFORA

. . . lower their 300 amphorae to a depth of between 10 – 15 metres below the water in the Ebro Delta, where the magnificent River Ebro meets the Mediterranean Sea . . .

GONE FISHING!

Does it still count as plagiarism if it’s your own words you’re pilfering, and from a different medium?

I ask because today’s Cork Talk title was used by myself to introduce a wine I was about to taste on my recent radio show on Valley FM (you can still catch it here – (https://soundcloud.com/user-789233062/valley-vibes-5-sept-the-wine-show/s-Suv4mRL4QGO). I’m doing the same now.

Readers will perhaps recognise that the words were originally Chris Rea’s (or whoever wrote the song). It’s a good song in itself – but it’s also relevant, though you may think it a little peculiar, to a certain wine I’ve recently had the good fortune to taste. I followed the music with an exclamation – ‘and oh boy, what a catch!’

Let me explain. There is a winery, Bodegas S’Amfora (www.samfora.com/en-gb) nestled in the hills, about 400 metres above sea level, roughly in the Tarragona area, which in wine terms is in the DO Terra Alta region. It’s an area which is really making waves (continuing with a similar metaphor!) across the dynamic ocean that is the Spanish Wine scene these days. Putting quality first, winemakers in Terra Alta are upping the ante in this area of production gently nudging it to prominence.

The triumvirate of founders of this modern winery intent on linking the present and future with the past have the benefit of modern technology, the latest winemaking information and of course their shared passion and interest in history in boldly making wine in a very different and yet historically familiar way.

Take, for example their extremely limited production Mudéfer white Garnacha wine that, Jaume, my contact at Bodegas S’amfora sent me. Firstly, as you may have guessed – this wine is not housed in a bottle. Instead it comes in a beautifully charming, custom made 75cl clay amphora. Just as would have happened in Roman and Phoenician times. Fascinating in itself – but there’s more!

White Garnacha grapes harvested 30 years old vines undergo a vineyard selection, then on closer examination back at the winery only the very best, healthiest bunches are chosen for fermentation. Post fermentation the wine is placed in French oak barrels, for a period of 4 – 6 months. Nothing unusual here, so far. However, then the wine which has gained a little golden colour goes into the amphorae for several months.

Here it ages, just as it would have done in those historical epochs, taking on more mature notes as the wine develops, as well as some slight mineral/earthy influence from the terracotta in which it rests. But hey – it’s not finished yet!

You may remember that in 2010 there was a 170 years old shipwreck found off the coast of Finland which still contained some of the goods that were being transported to Russia. You may also know that Russia in those days was one of, if not the largest importer of Champagne. Ocean Archaeologists and wine experts alike were fascinated to hear that there were a good number of Champagne bottles that had withstood the chaos of the wreck and subsequent plummeting to the bottom of the sea remaining intact, their contents, hopefully undamaged.

There was a small but rather grand tasting and indeed it was found that the Champagne remained perfectly drinkable (though, actually made in a wholly different, far sweeter style than is the norm nowadays). The experts started to draw the conclusion that, in some way perversely, aging under the ocean’s waves had benefitted the wine.

In fact it’s not too hard to imagine – it’s is very dark down in the depths, there’s no noise, it’s mostly perfectly still, save for perhaps a very, very gentle rocking, and of course it’s silent. Perfect conditions for ageing wine on dry land. Of course there is the fact that sea water itself is a harsh environment for wine – it would ruin it immediately should it enter the bottle. However, the cork in the bottle, permeable as it is, had been protected by the foil in which it was wrapped, secured by its metal clasp. Not one of the lucky tasters made a reference to any saltiness!

Fast forward to 2018/19 and our intrepid friends make the bold decision to take advantage of such conditions and lower their 300 amphorae to a depth of between 10 – 15 metres below the water in the Ebro Delta, where the magnificent River Ebro meets the Mediterranean Sea! Rather than leaving it there for 170 years, of course, these pristine amphorae are left to the gentle rhythm of the sea for a period of 6 months.

When they are returned to dry land the barnacle-encrusted amphorae have a faint layer of salt water silt on them, looking exactly like they have indeed been left at the bottom of the sea! Fantastic!

And what of the wine? Well, I wondered if the contents could live up to the story – and I was delighted to see that it does! Slightly golden in colour the wine is bright like a precious liquid jewel in the glass. The immediate aroma as the amphora is opened is similar to that of a fino or Manzanilla sherry, soon to be joined by some citrus notes, lemon and to a lesser degree yellow skinned grapefruit.

On the palate the fruit makes way a little for a slightly saline and earthy note along with almendras crudas that have perhaps been dry-fried for short period adding a faint toasty nuance.

It’s a multi-layered, intense and concentrated fine wine, thought provoking for sure and one that will be paired perfectly with oysters (our first thought) as well as seafood in general. We really enjoyed it with calamares pequenos quickly sautéed with garlic, thyme and chilli infused olive oil. What an experience!

colin@colinharknessonwine.com Instagram colinharkness53

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P.S. My next Wine Show on www.valleyfm.es is on Saturday 7th November 12.00 – 13:00 hrs CET – shining the spotlight on wines from DOP Alicante!         

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