Memories of My First Amphora Aged Wine from Josko Gravner

Wines aged in Amphora while still not common are so much easier to find these days than when I first tasted one back in 2002. Lucky for me, the first one I tasted is one of the best and the most historic. The wine and the man who made it stayed with me for many years. The wine was an Anfora Ribolla Gialla from Josko Gravner, a fabulous wine made from Ribolla Gialla, a grape well-known in Friuli. Ribolla gialla is said to hail originally from Greece. From there, it made its way to Slovenia and then onto to Friuli. Boccaccio, the Italian poet mentioned this fabulous white grape as early as the 14th century.

The first time I ever had a ribolla gialla was in a Japanese restaurant in Milan. I was with someone from my Italian wine school, AIS, and he suggested it. It was subtle and elegant, sensual and complex – the wine not the guy…

Oddly enough, it paired very well with Japanese food. It had enough sweetness to contrast some of the savory flavors in our meal but it was also delicate enough with great acidity to match the Kappa Maki.

I finally met Gravner at a tasting in 2007 in Monza, a city outside of Milan where they hold Formula 1 races. The tasting was a small intimate affair. Gravner was there with his son, who tragically passed away in a terrible motocycle accident. He is truly a fascinating person to listen to and very intense as you can see if you read his website. That comes through in the wines as well.

Gravner was very serious when he spoke about his wines and how much time he had wasted in his initial winemaking years. He also told me California should stop making wine.

We had a vertical of Breg and some of the Anfora Ribolla Gialla as well. I loved the wines. A friend who came with me did not. He found them hard to drink. Il mondo e’ bello perche’ vario…

I am hoping to see this variety on many more wine lists. I don’t think it is getting the right amount of attention in the United States. It is a versatile grape and can pair with Asian cuisine, Indian cuisine or anything else for that matter.

Roman Amphora

The wine:

The Ribolla Gialla is fermented in Georgian amphorae which are then buried underground. He does a long maceration with wild yeasts and no temperature control, Following fermentation, the wine is again in amphorae and then is aged in large oak barrels for an additional six years; bottled without fining or filtering.

The pairing:

While it is 103 degrees outside, for some reason I have begun to think of the fall. There’s nothing I like better than ravioli alla zucca or penne alla zucca, pasta dishes made with pumpkin. This is a perfect pairing for a Ribolla Gialla wine as well. Structured yet delicate at the same time. I make the pasta with white wine but sometimes I add a dollop of panna (cream) to finish it off. While I don’t wish for summer’s end, this has made me think of all the good things coming in the fall.

This month the Wine Pairing Weekend bloggers are looking at wines aged in amphorae. Gwendolyn, the Wine Predator, invites us: here.
Join us Saturday, August 14th at 11am EST Follow the hashtag #WinePW and be sure to add that to anything you tweet so we can see it. Here’s the line-up from the writers…


  1. LOL Susannah….I’m sorry the guy wasn’t subtle, elegant, sensual and complex but at least you had the wine. Too funny. Great article. I would be interested in learning more about why the winemaker frowns upon CA wines.

    • Wendy,
      It happens but I am glad you enjoyed the article. If memory serves, Gravner thought it was too hot in California for grape vines. He was very extreme. Chat later. Cheers to you, Susannah

  2. Gravener’s wines are fascinating, and how cool that you got to meet him! Ironically enough, I feel like CA is one place in the US where there are quite a few winemakers extremely interested in working with Ribolla Gialla. I believe there’s even a group of them that get together to share their Ribollas with each other every year. (I’ve never been, have only heard.)

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