Progress ain't always Progress
One of my favorite wine writers is Alice Feiring who is a big fan of the natural wine movement and is willing to give unusual wines a chance when most critics like Robert Parker want to stick with the big, heavy wines that made California and Bordeaux famous.
Feiring recently published a new book on the wines of Georgia (not the state in the US but the country in Eastern Europe!). It deals with how wine is made in ancient ways and 180 degrees opposite of how most commercial wine is made.
One of the most interesting aspects of Georgian wine is that it is fermented in tanks made of a type of clay called amphora. These vats allow the wine to microxidize in a similar manner to oak barrels but without imparting the taste that comes with oak. Microxidation, allows the wine to have some contact with oxygen, which softens the tannins in the wine and gives a smoother finish when fermentation is completed.
I think the amphora vats are beautiful in themselves....works of art really. Not being a big fan of oak on my wines (I like clear, crisp, and fruit forward wines with bracing acidity), I hope that one day I can make some of my wines in an amphora vat. When I do, I will let you know!