The most natural way of making wine

(Ingezonden persbericht)

Winemaker Bernhard Ott (Wagram, Lower Austria) has fulfilled a long-held dream: during the 2009 harvest, he made a wine with methods used thousands of years ago. Entirely naturally and practically without any intervention.

Ott returned to the roots of European wine culture and bought amphoras in the Republic of Georgia, where they are still in use. These clay vessels have a capacity of between 500 and 2500 kg. They were filled with freshly harvested, destemmed grapes, sealed, and buried in the earth. Five months later Ott reopened the amphoras – and found finished, clear wine inside.

„Working my vineyards according to bio-dynamic principles has become my passion,” remarks the thoughtful winemaker, whose eyes sparkle with joie de vivre and entrepreneurial spirit. “The constant work with vines, with their cycles and the exchanges between natural ambience and plants awakened the wish in me to support the autonomy of the grape after the harvest as well as before.

Ott wanted to test what would happen, if he did not „make“ a wine, but let it „grow“ naturally instead. The result was stunning: a wine with a story to tell, a story for all those willing to take time and listen, and to be open for new aromas and taste sensations. Most of all, however, the wine shows a depth and length unheard of in conventional wines. It is no standard wine, of course, and those who expect primary fruit will be disappointed. Wine lovers, however, who are able to perceive the vivacity and the shining core of this wine will once more find proof that modern technology is not the be all and end all of happiness in the cellar or in the glass. Ott’s amphora wine is an expression of a new search for values which are very, very old.

The bio-dynamic approach to vineyard work allows the winemaker to make strong, autonomous personalities out of the individual vines, living in a natural symbiosis with wild herbs and able to grow healthily without chemical products. “Since we began with bio-dynamism, our vines have grown less vulnerable to disease and fungal problems; they survive rainy periods and droughts, and mature more slowly but with great uniformity. They area also more balanced in terms of sugar, and therefore alcohol,” explains the delighted Bernhard Ott.

ott3While during the conventional wine making process grapes for white wine are pressed immediately after harvest and only the pure most is fermented, the ancient amphora method simply requires the destemmed berries to be filled into the vessels. The fermentation takes place individually, inside the berry skins, and a gentle maceration occurs during the entire period, extracting tannins and aromatic compounds from the skins. The special clay of the amphora allows a small amount of contact with the surrounding soil (in Ott’s case a loess layer that is several meters deep), and the wine can develop until the fermentation process is completed naturally.

„For about six months, from the first shoots until the harvest, the development of the grapes takes place above ground. Air and light create a shoot, then a bud, and finally a fruit, whose character is strongly influenced by soil characteristics. The following six months are spent below ground, and the ripe fruit with their sugar, yeast and solid compounds is transformed into an ethereal liquid containing all elements of the process. It is a fantastic miracle,” says the amazed Bernhard Ott.

The rhythms of nature are testimony to an age-old life cycle: “Easter is the moment at which the first shoots appear on the vines, and one year later, again at Easter, the process of natural vinification inside the amphoras was completed. Nature has its own logic. We can understand it only if we are prepared to go with it, if we take time to listen and let go of our mania of controlling everything,” Ott believes.

1500 rare bottles of the Amphorenwein 2009 are issued by Bernhard Ott in autumn ex cellar.

Information: Bernhard Ott, Neufang 36, 3483 Feuersbrunn, +43 2738 2257,

If you are interested in tasting a barrel sample of the amphora wine, you are cordially invited to visit Bernhard Ott at the VieVinum.

29-31 May 2010, Hofburg, Gardehalle 2, stand number 87

Press information: Wine&Partners, Vienna.

Photos: Copyright: Steve Haider.


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