Darn, thought I might go every week with a post, but that didn't happen. Oh well, back to the wine world anyway.
Have been doing some thinking about the evolution of wine over the last 10 or so years. The good news for consumers is that wine makers have much more knowledge and methods for producing wine, better yet, good to great wine. Science has catapulted wine making, allowing for a better understanding of every aspect of the process. Better clonal identification and how the climates that they reside in interact, picking the grapes at just the right time to provide the winemaker his or her framework to begin the process and new equipment (or in some cases ancient equipment) to help with the finished product.
It's that last item I wish to concentrate on. At my last tasting I had two wines where the winemaker used concrete fermenters. You heard me right. While some of the wine was being aged in the traditional oak casks, some of it was put into the concrete (mostly egg shaped) fermenters. This process actually dates back a few thousand years when wine was stored in amphoras (sometimes spelled amphorae), to store wine until drunk by its owner.
For those that don't already know, winemakers have been using various types of oak casks for ages. American, French and Slavonian (used big time in Italy) to name the big 3. Along with "toasting" the oak barrels to obtain even more and unique flavors. Of course there are some wines that see no oak at all, helping to preserve the flavor of the fruit and help with a certain crispness in the wine.
Okay, but concrete?? You bet. While relatively new, winemakers have been using concrete for a few years now. There's still a fair amount of debate on how and if they work. Some believe that the concrete does impart a certain minerality to wines. There is also the issue of oxygenation of the wine while in the tanks. Does it let in more, less and then how does that impact the wine. From the experience I had with the 2 wines I had, both being white wines, I think there was a certain amount of minerality not usually found in these wines. I didn't taste the wines before concrete fermentation to know for sure, but it did make for some unusual discussions about the wine with customers.
Ask your wine purveyor about wines fermented in concrete? Not sure you're going to get a lot of response and even if they happen to know of the process and its use, it is much harder to know which wines actually use them. I have a feeling that as time progresses and more is learned from the use of concrete, that more and more wineries will start to add that information the wine labels somewhere. Maybe even in a name, like Concrete Cabernet. Catchy eh?
But until that time, let's let the winemakers continue on their path of making the best wine they can in whatever manner they can.
So please, pass the egg...fermenters.