Wine: New value in ancient technique
Winemaking is a centuries old process. We know about oak barrels and stainless steel fermentation tanks.
But how about a concrete egg? For winemaking, yes, a concrete egg.
Wine has been stored in concrete containers for millennia. You may recall concrete jugs unearthed during archeological digs. Just recently, archeology.org reported a wine jug unearthed during a dig in a cemetery in Demark. It is estimated to be 1,000 years old. In 1988, hundreds of wine jugs were discovered during an excavation of the tomb of an Egyptian king who lived about 3150 BC. There must be something to holding wine in concrete.
So what about the concrete egg? Well, it seems that fermenting wine in concrete is quite good for the wine. The thick concrete walls maintain an even temperature. The nooks and crannies of the concrete expose the wine to a small amount of oxygen. There are several shapes of concrete containers used: cubes, cones and pyramids.
But why an egg shape? It is said that the oval shape is preferred because the fermentation gasses are forced to move from the bottom to the narrower top. Because of this movement, lees do not settle, but continue to move through the juice.
In addition, the concrete is neutral. Unlike barrels or stainless steel tanks that change the flavor of the juice, the concrete allows it remain in its natural state. The fermentation is only augmented by the grapes’ own properties.
This means the wine makers must start with exceptional grapes. The result is wine that is exact to its beginnings, without the imparted flavors of oak barrels or stainless steel fermentation. A refreshing departure from oaky chardonnays, wines aged in concrete are both lively and rich.
How do we know if a wine has been aged in concrete? Some producers will mention it in the blurb on the back of the bottle. Mer Soleil Silver is a chardonnay from Rutherford California.
Charlie Wagner, the wine maker, uses chardonnay grapes from the cool growing region called the Santa Lucia Highlands. Taking this process one step further, Mer Soleil Vineyard bottles this chardonnay in ceramic bottles.
This continues the preservation of the pure flavors of the grapes. You can check it out for yourself – they sell this one at The Fresh Market locally.
Winemaking is both an ancient and modern process. As technology continues to revolutionize just about anything and everything, the wine production process evolves as well.
Using ancient methods in conjunction with modern knowledge, wine makers are creating wines that are precise in their specifications.
And while wines from generations old wineries can be spectacular, these “new age” bottles can be just as spectacular. Keep an open mind and a clean glass within reach. Cheers.