WINEMAKING Tuscan Terracotta Amphorae & French Oak Barrels
Perliss wines are aged in both terracotta amphorae and oak barrels. These two materials allow for different expressions from the fruit, which are then blended in their most advantageous proportions.
AMPHORAE - These handmade, terracotta vessels allow the Ravens Cabernet Sauvignon & Serpents Sémillon to show their characters with purity - as if looking upon the vineyard through a transparent lens.
When Altelier Centre France, one of our cooperages (whose lifeblood is French oak), proposed being the first in Napa to work with amphorae from Manetti Gusmano, we were intrigued - primarily by the possibility of experiencing wine from our vineyard without any oak shading, but also by the opportunity to make wine as it had been for thousands of years, before the advent of barrels.
Manetti Gusmano & Figli is a Tuscan manufacturer of terracotta products for eight generations (with the credentials of making roof tiles for Brunelleschi's Duomo in Florence). The clay itself is sourced from an Etruscan quarry. Each vessel is handmade by only two artisans in a process that lasts months. More porous than wood or concrete, the amphorae allow for a deep concentration of the wine, while maintaining a beautiful freshness.
Clay also imparts a tannic structure different than oak, and an enhanced minerality. And just as oak from different forests has their particularities, so does clay composition vary depending on where it is sourced. The galestro clay used by Manetti Gusmano is renowned for its strength. Wines created in clay have a purity and brightness unachievable with oak. Their remarkably vivid character seems to vibrate in the glass.
BARRELS - Although less porous than clay, oak staves allow wine to breathe and concentrate; they lend tannins that are key in the structure of a wine; they also add many flavor components - so much so that the same wine aged in separate barrels becomes two different wines. The cooperages one chooses to work with greatly impacts what is finally bottled; the range of barrels is sometimes referred to as the winemaker's spice box.
For The Serpents Sémillon, the oak barrels have been used for over a decade and are completely neutral. For The Ravens Cabernet Sauvignon, a program of 60% new and 40% once used barrels is applied.