What does a concrete egg have to do with wine? I was curious to find out when I received a sample bottle of the 2011 Haywire Winery Pinot Gris that stated “Raised in Concrete” on the front label. So I contacted the co-owner of this British Colubmia winery, Christine Coletta, to ask her about this intriguing winemaking process. My question and her answer:
What does it mean to “raise” a wine in concrete? Does it add something that oak or stainless steel does not? Is the wine in direct contact with the concrete and does it add flavor?
Concrete has been used in winemaking for centuries, but is making a comeback in the New World. We have six 2,000 litre concrete fermenting “eggs” from Sonoma Cast Stone in Napa and more will arrive from Italy this coming year. There is no lining in the “eggs” so the wine is in direct contact with pure concrete. The goal is to get our own native yeasts living in the porous internal surface of the tanks so that we do not need to use commercial yeast. Concrete tanks are more work to maintain and many wineries have put an epoxy liner in their tanks which to us defeats the purpose. We don’t view concrete as a sterile vessel like stainless steel, but a vessel like oak, which plays a role in defining the taste profile of a wine. Concrete is much more subtle. We notice a fuller, rounder, more complex mid-palate and a “minerality” to the wine that isn’t in our stainless steel fermented version.
Any wine that we ferment in concrete says “raised in concrete” on the front label. It’s part of our mission to create consumer awareness for concrete fermented wines. We let people know how and why concrete vessels are utilized, and the joy of using them.
You can read the entire interview on Foodista, where Christine and I talk about box wines, the Okanagan Valley, and what food pairs best with her wines. And if you want to know what a 2,000 liter concrete egg looks like, here’s a photo of Haywire’s half-dozen: