Wine Business Monthly hosted the first Innovation + Quality conference, an exclusive gathering for ultra-premium wineries dedicated to the concept of using innovation to advance wine quality.
400 winemakers there performed a taste test comparing
wines made in oak, stainless steel and concrete.
It was not necessary to count the votes.
Wine was first made in fired-clay and concrete vessels like these ancient amphorae. Oak was originally a subsitute used in areas where there were no concrete vessels. Now, winemakers all over the world are rediscovering the benefits of using concrete as a medium for fermentation, finding the virtues of both of oak and stainless steel with the drawbacks of neither. Now, most of the world's highest-rated wines are made in concrete.
Concrete can take the heat, or the cold. It's a natural insulator and will stabilize the temperature of whatever is inside of it. This stability makes for a smooth and gradual fermentation, because there are no temperature spikes to make the yeast become aggressive. For the same reason, concrete is also ideal for storing and aging wines.
Sonoma Cast Stone also offers a unique temperature control system. Our system is hidden within the walls of the tank itself and does not make contact with that wine.
Concrete is porous, albeit on a microscopic scale, and that's where it beats stainless steel. The environment in stainless steel is too perfect to be ideal for fermentation. Without a gradual introduction of micro-oxygenation, the wine remains flat. It cannot breathe and evolve.
Wine fermented in concrete has the round mouthfeel of wine fermented in oak, but it has much greater purity of fruit flavor, even a greater intensity of fruit color. For fermentation, storage or aging, concrete is simply phenomenal.
If you're a winemaker, you know that even neutral oak is not neutral. All oak will give a bit of itself to your wine, whether you like it or not. Concrete makes for a truly neutral vessel, imparting only a slight and desirable minerality.
Pax Mahle, winemaker for Wind Gap Winery, says, "…concrete gives the wine the weight and texture of a barrel fermentation, but rather than tasting like a barrel, the wine tastes like where it was grown.”
Michael Bartier, winemaker for Haywire Winery, puts it this way, "Concrete does a very good job of showcasing a wine’s true terroir. Oak can mask those distinctions, but concrete doesn’t add, remove, or mask anything. It lets the fruit shine through to be a true statement of the place it was grown.".
Concrete can hold virtually any size or shape. At Sonoma Cast Stone, we exploit that attribute to the fullest with conical tanks, square and rectangular tanks, teacups, and even stackable "treasure chests". The capacities range from 2,300 gallons down to 170.
Concrete allows for the inclusion of any valve, gauge, hatch or cover. A manfacturer with our unique capabilities can also offer any color scheme you like or the benefit of having your logo displayed proudly on the tank itself. Also unique is our hidden temperature control system that makes no contact with the wine.
The strength and durability of concrete is truly the stuff of legend. Our tanks employ seismic engineering and a unique system of layered concrete that makes our tanks amazingly durable. We also use soft seals around our hatches to accommodate the different rates of expansion between the concrete and the steel fixtures.
Our overall expertise allows us to offer you a ten-year guarantee against structural cracking. That guarantee is also, you guessed it, unique..