Easter Egg Hunt in the Cellar, Anyone?
Nowadays, there is a new trend in cellars, using eggs. No, I am not talking about the process by which we can stabilize and clarify red wines using real albumin from eggs. The oval objects I am talking about are concrete, egg-shaped tanks. They are one of the fastest growing enological products sold to American cellars.
Concrete eggs are essentially a large version of clay amphorae (two-handled jars used by the ancient Greeks and Romans to carry wine or oil). They feature a more porous surface than stainless-steel tanks, allowing some oxidation, but without the flavors imparted from oak fermentation. Concrete eggs are best employed for white wine, as they keep fermentation temperatures down and yield a fresh, clean wine. The unique shape causes the wine to move constantly during fermentation, keeping the lees moving and adding to the mouthfeel of the finished wine.
Around the world, famous winemakers have already adopted this technique. The French company, Nomblot, is leading the charge on the manufacturing side.
Michel Chapoutier is one of the Rhône Valley’s biggest names. He was the pioneer of this design. Seven of his top wines have scored 100 points from Robert Parker over multiple vintages. In Bordeaux, Grand cru classé (or “Classified Growths” in English) are leading the charge in this traditional but high-tech region. Experiments with a wooden egg tank made by Taransaud, a famous French cooperage, are underway with mixed results.
In Argentina, Austria, Chile and Australia, many wineries have adopted this concept. In America, appellations along the Pacific Northwest are also using egg-shaped tanks. The minerality and texture of their respective terroir is believed to be enhanced with the use of these tanks.
Now, make sure you don’t go and break the wrong egg during your Easter celebration. And if you do, you are forgiven. After all, chocolate goes well with wine anyway.