When it comes to concrete, we can definitely establish that the egg came last.
The latest aid to winemaking, the concrete egg, was the brainchild of Michel Chapoutier. In 2001 he commissioned the Nomblot Company— a specialist in concrete wine vats—to create a tank in the shape of an egg. The shape was of paramount importance: the new design allowed Michel to experiment with a vessel that basically had no dead corners. The results were amazing.
Since Michel Chapoutier and Marc Nomblot built that first concrete egg, it has been exported to the majority of the world’s wine regions and has become another important tool in the arsenal of the winemaker. In California, for example, the concrete egg has been used in the production of many a noteworthy cabernet sauvignon such as Screaming Eagle. I first came across an egg in Argentina three years ago: the visual impact of these containers is immense in a winery. And, needless to say, the winemaker at that time was excited to begin experimenting with this new design.
Concrete egg tanks are manufactured with a 600-litre capacity and cost in the region of $6,000. This might sound expensive, but— unlike oak barrels—they don’t need to be replaced every three years. And, more importantly, red wines that are allowed to ferment in concrete tend to express the fruit profile more than the tannin elements.
This being the case, wouldn’t the concrete egg be an asset to new wine regions with young vines?
THIS WEEK’S PICK
This week, I wanted to visit a perennial varietal favorite: riesling. I enjoyed a delightful glass (or two…) of the Huff Estates 2011 Off- Dry Riesling ($17.95).
Loved by winemakers and wine drinkers alike, rieslings are sometimes misunderstood. Because this varietal is somewhat of a chameleon, it requires a deft winemaker—like Frederic Picard—to showcase the range of styles that riesling makes possible.
The aroma of this riesling is a burst of citrus peel and ripe peach; the palate is a mix of stone fruit, specifically peach and apricot. It has a rich viscosity, balanced by a wonderfully structured acidity. With a sensible alcohol level of 12%, it well deserves the title of crowd-pleaser.
Huff Estates Off-Dry Riesling is available at the winery, located at 2274 County Road 1 (on the north—west corner of County Road 1 and Highway 62) in Bloomfield.