During the winter the team and I spend significant time visiting wineries, expanding our knowledge of wine making and capturing the industry’s latest trends to ensure your wine tours are full of nuance and each of us ready to provide insights of what it really takes to create the best wines in Napa.
Perhaps you are familiar with the rising trend of distilleries of all types across the country. This has resulted in increased demand for oak barrels causing shortages for all industries that are dependent on barrel fermentation. To make up for the shortage and to explore alternative wine making processes likely to add to the body and flavoring of the wine several wine makers in Napa are now using concrete eggs for wine fermentation and obtaining outstanding results.
What is a Concrete Fermentation Egg?
Concrete has been used in Europe for a very long time but we have only seen an increase in it’s popularity in CA for the last decade. Concrete fermentation eggs are tanks that replace stainless steel or White Oak storage and provide wine makers with an insulated stable environment that facilitates fermentation. Among one of the most desirable qualities of concrete we need to highlight breathability. Wine needs oxygen to ferment and concrete is porous allowing for micro-oxygenation something that is not possible in a stainless tank. Additionally a wine fermented in concrete is not subject to the purchased flavors that are inherent to Oak and it only gives out a mild minerality that is perceived as a positive quality in lighter wines. Wine fermented in concrete has a full mouthfeel, richer color and greater purity of fruit flavor making it a perfect home for the more delicate white and rose wines.
The Darker Side
Of course, no material is perfect. Disadvantages include concrete’s sheer mass (special forklifts are needed to move concrete tanks, which come in cube, cylinder and egg shapes), difficult cleaning protocols (many techniques that work for other vessels—scrubbers, metal, very hot water, ozone, chlorine, strong acids—cause damage to concrete) and the potential for “pinking” a white wine by first using the concrete tank for red. The vessel cost is comparable to oak and here in Napa we have minimal concerns related to shipping costs with Sonoma Cast Stone building the tanks locally.
Where Can You Experience Wine Fermentation Eggs in Napa?
There are many other wineries working on perfecting their concrete fermented wines. We would love to host your wine tour and introduce you to some of the best examples in the industry.
Here is to wonderful wine & friends!