payday loans
uk loan

Concrete Eggs as Tools in a Winemaker’s Basket

While strolling the aisles of a favorite adult beverage store (the independently owned Beverage Warehouse), I came across a wine fermented in concrete eggs.” In 20 years of wine geekiness I’d never heard that concept. I asked a wine colleague about it, and you’d think I asked for the Easter Bunny’s address.

As with most wine geeks, for yours truly it was a “gotta find out more about this” moment. In bygone days that meant resorting to Funk & Wagnall’s or a trip to the library. Today it means just turning to the Big G (oogle) in the cyber sky.

Another “I’m so uninformed” surprise. Concrete wine tanks have been used for centuries in Europe. In learning about the making of numerous wines over time, I came across endless variations of the wood barrels and/or stainless steel methods: 50 – 50 split between barrel and stainless fermentation with aging in new Hungarian Oak Barriques; the only whiff of wood that a Chard received was when the bottle was put on a display rack; etc., etc.

So what’s the deal with using concrete? The basic answer is “breathability without flavor.” That phrase reminds me of a cold bad enough that you can’t taste, but at least you can still breathe. But as usual I digress.

The use of wood barrels involves breathability with varying levels of oxygenation of the wine. But even with re-used oak barrels (aka not “new”), some wood flavor is imparted to the juice.

Now on the other side of the coin are stainless steel tanks (couldn’t resist that easy metallurgical metaphor). Stainless places the focus on the wine’s fruit without imparting any wood flavor. And I know that our sharp followers have already connected the dots. A stainless tank has no breathability and so there’s no oxygenation of the juice. But what about an Iron Lung you ask? Surf away to a medical blog smart aleck!

The egg shaped concrete fermentation tank is a recent innovation that involves wine making tech beyond this hack blogger. A few general points for an idea of those tech aspects:

- Thermodynamics of the shape aids fluid movement for temperature and reduces pressure on the lees (dead yeast, grape seeds, pulp, stems, skins, and tartrates that separate from the juice during wine making).

- Aids the deposition of the lees across a larger floor area than a barrel and avoids the need for stirring.

Stirring the lees by hand

- Concrete acts as a low-tech temperature control since its insulative, while stainless is conductive.

- Provides a soft, gentle fermentation leaving the aromas intact.

Winemakers love having another tool in their box to play with. For example, the “Illumination” 2010 Sauv Blanc that inspired this post, has “parts of the wine fermented in concrete eggs, stainless steel and French oak to give it a complex texture and good acidity.

To say the least, concrete eggs aren’t cheap. Accordingly, mainly high end wineries use them for expensive wines. The aforesaid Illumination retails for just a tad under $40.  A myriad of other factors also goose the price of a high end wine.  But that’s for another time and that’s what we call a teaser in the blog biz.

Carpe Vinum!

a 95 point Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc

Essential Wine Co.

Carpe Vinum!..