Gerações da Talha

For 2,000 years, in the area around Vidigueira, deep in the Southern Alentejo, wine has been made in amphorae, still exactly as the Romans did at the time. For a long time, the wines remained under the radar because they were not bottled but consumed locally. Teresa Caeiro recently changed that.

Toward New Horizons

In 2019, Teresa felt the time had come to connect her small village of Villa de Frades to the world, safeguarding the tradition that had been passed down to her from generation to generation. Until then, the wine created year after year in the family cellar was sold to the people of the surrounding villages. The wines were not bottled, but drained in jugs directly from the amphorae and drunk a short time afterwards.
Modern winemakers whom we questioned years ago about the tradition of amphora wine (or vinho de talha as they call it in Alentejo) were smirking about it. They dismissed it as simple wine that could not be stored. In retrospect, they were right: the wine could not be stored because it was already emtied in a few months.
Tradition had it that the harvest was brought in at the end of August, quickly fermented in the amphorae and tapped as early as November 11, on the feast of St. Anthony.
The wine was then drunk in the following months, and if sometime in the spring the amphorae in the village were empty, they needed to wait until November again;
But with new generations moving away from the relatively poor and remote region for decades, Teresa Caeiro thought it was time to broaden her market. She decided to bottle the wines for the first time and introduce the world to the wonderful world of vinho de talha.
And so the best talha wines suddenly turn out to be far from simple. They have a very distinctive, recognizable character of their own and also seem to show quite a bit of storage potential.

In This Day and Age
That these wines are reaching us just now cannot be a coincidence. They fit perfectly into the spirit of this day and age because these are very naturally made wines. A whole movement of winemakers today is reverting to this method of yesteryear in response to a rationalization in the wine world that has gotten out of hand.
Modern tools are used in the production of vinho de talha only at bottling. Traditionally, the grapes are lightly crushed before ending up in the amphora with the skins and a good portion of the stems. This natural environment of baked clay, waterproofed every few years with a mixture of resin, beeswax and olive oil, proves to be very efficient in turning grape juice into wine. The amphorae are barely filled or the natural yeast cells shoot into action, and they also do their work much faster than in modern stainless steel tanks. Man intervenes here only to submerge daily the layer of skins that comes to the surface so that no infection of bacteria is possible.
Once fermentation is complete, the skins sink to the bottom of the amphora along with the yeast residue. There they protect the wine from oxidation, making it unnecessary to seal the amphorae.
Only when one decides to age a wine in an amphora for more than 9 months is the wine covered at the top with a layer of olive oil.
And finally, that layer of skins fulfills an important role as a filter. The amphorae are drained through an opening at the bottom that is sealed with a cork. When it is time to drain the wine, a wooden tap is slammed into the cork. The juice is thus naturally filtered and clarified through the thick cake of skins and stalks.
Only then will an inox tank be used to possibly blend the wine from multiple amphorae or allow it to rest for a while before bottling. At bottling, a small amount of sulfite is added. However, the need for this antioxidant is very limited because, unlike modern techniques, the wine built up resistance to oxygen in the amphora.
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