New Amphora

by Brash Higgins

We’ve been preparing our vineyard to harvest our very first crop of the red wine grape Nero d’Avola. Indigenous to Sicily, where it is well suited for a hot, dry climate like our own in McLaren Vale, we grafted the Nero vines over to a shiraz block in 2009.

Nero is capable of producing tremendously complex wine in a number of different styles. Similar to shiraz, but with dusty tannins and more savoury elements, the grape ripens much later which could lead to some interesting flavours.

Look for these wines, they are something special. I wanted to experiment with some amphora, since I had tasted some thrilling examples and believe the vessel gives the wine an earthier texture than stainles steel or wood. Furthermore, being the first to grow Nero in McLaren Vale, I also wanted to make it special, so I was on the hunt for a potter that was up to the challenge.

After weeks of following leads and making visits, I finally located someone with a big enough kiln to fire the amphora, and who also had the technical ability to get it done. Two of the four we will use this year are in the picture above.

We are visiting Sicily this year to explore COS, whose “Pithos” is 100 percent amphora aged, and the other Sicilian wineries known for working with Nero, like Tasca d’Almerita and Planeta, for example. I’m sure it will be a huge experience. This year we added another two acres of Nero material which should keep us busy, as it does seem to need reigning in.

It also seems to be disease resistant and shows no signs yet of any viruses, as it has on a few other sites outside our district. We are also keen to keep the water off it and let it become dry grown, since it doesn’t seem to need much at all. And for a country hampered by drought conditions like Australia, that’s a good idea.