Amphora wine

Maybe we’ve made this whole wine making thing way too complicated in the 21st century.

Maybe you don’t need a U.C.-Davis degree, a cellar-rat pedigree, a portmanteau of vinification magic tricks, cold soaking, designer yeast, micro-oxygenation, fining, filtering, racking.

It wasn’t nearly so complicated the first 8,000 years of winemaking.

Which inspires a very successful winery in Georgia. Not the state of Georgia, the country of Georgia. Was part of the old Soviet Union.

The Schuchmann Winery is as slick as you want it to be: A major part of their operation, however, is old school. Really old school.

Back in the day, you harvested your grapes and dumped everything into your amphora. That’s a vessel, also called a “qvevri,” holding anything from 100 to more than 500 gallons. Amphora are made of clay, have a narrowed mouth so they can be stoppered, two handles, and taper to a point at the base. You see them all over archeological digs.

To make wine, simply crush grapes and dump everything— juice, skins, stalks, pips—into your amphora. Fermentation begins naturally. Bury the amphora to its neck in the ground. Seal with a wooden stopper. Leave it alone: red wine for a month or so, then transfer into oak barrels; white wine for up to six months. Old school. Really old school. The Canaan wine steward in the Bible would feel right at home.

You would think there would be all sorts of problems with such a simple, primitive approach. There aren’t. The narrowing base of the amphora is the key, all the non-juice junk falls to the conical bottom and only enough is exposed for the wine to develop correctly. We humans knew how to do this 4,000 years before we built the pyramids.

Schuchmann wine reportedly is subtle, complex, delicious, and costs about $10 a bottle.

Sadly, buying it may be a problem. Schuchmann is a major player in parts of Europe, but not carried at your local U.S. supermarket or wine shop.

A bit of internet sleuthing or a vacation to the winery sited at the nexus of Europe and Asia, in the foothills of the Caucasus Mountains between the Black and Caspian seas could net you some bottles (and a nice vacation). The winery has a tasting chateau and adjacent hotel where each room has Wi-Fi, satellite reception, and a flatscreen TV. The winemaking is old school, not the winery operation.

Last round: A glass of wine counts as a serving of fruit, right? Two glasses, two servings?