Wine lovers understandably zoom in on Josko Gravner’s use of Georgian amphorae and the months-long macerations that his white wines receive. Often forgotten is the fact that the specific methods Gravner uses in his cellar are only one part of the story. After all, Gravner was a very highly-regarded vigneron well before his 2001 conversion to traditional Friulian/Slovenian methods.
As with all great wines, the heart of every Gravner wine is in the vineyards, not the winery. These are steep, terraced sites with clay, sandstone, and marine sediment terroir. The vineyards are not merely tended by hand, the entire environment in and around the vines has been carefully managed to coexist harmoniously with nature. Roughly half of the property remains forested, trees (everything from olives to apples to cypress) are even dispersed among the vines, and ponds have been dug among the largest plots. Josko recognizes that viticulture is by necessity monoculture, and so he tries to correct that imbalance by bringing nature directly to the vineyards.
In the winery, of course, there are Gravner’s famous terra cotta amphorae, buried in the ground and sealed with beeswax. The whites receive long macerations (usually 5-7 months), even longer aging in large neutral oak (6 or more years), and then a further year or more in bottle. Naturally, only indigenous yeast is used, and sulfur is the only rare addition.
These are special, extraordinary, and often very challenging wines. They are also very limited.
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