Jump to Content

Vinho da Talha: Roman wine is alive and well in the Alentejo

In Portugal's Alentejo an ancient form of winemaking has survived and is flourishing, taking us back to the days of the ancients when wine was made in a clay amphora called Vinho da Talha. Many wineries preserve this primitive winemaking process today that was developed by the Greeks and the Romans more than 3,000 years ago.  In Alentejo, these clay vessels are called "talha” — derived from the Latin word "Tinalia” or a large pot or vessel. In the past, talhas were used to store and ship liquids like wine and olive oil. Over the millennia, the art of making wine in amphoras has been passed from generation to generation, with variations depending on local traditions. 

With the flourishing of the modern and celebrated wine industry in the Alentejo, many Alentejo wine producers have blended modern winemaking techniques and equipment without major changes with the essence of winemaking in amphoras. In 2012, a DOC "Vinho de Talha” was introduced. The essentials have changed little in more than two thousand years. Simply, crushed grapes are placed inside clay pots and fermentation happens. During fermentation, the grape skins rise to the top and form a solid layer that is stirred and forced to dip into the must, giving the wine more color, aromas and flavor. After fermentation, the grape masses settle on the bottom.

The wine eventually goes through the filter formed by the masses of grapes and comes out pure and unclouded. It is a simple, natural process.

Vinha da Talha is linked to the region’s history, culture and social life. On the day São Martinho in early November, many wineries open the amphoras.

Local wineries that offer Vinho da Talha include Herdade do Rocim, Vidigueira, Cartuxa, and Esporão.

Image 879