Concrete fermenting egg revisited
We spotted these concrete fermenting eggs in the cellars of the Quintessa Winery in the Rutherford AVA of the Napa Valley. This is not the first time we have seen these fermenting and aging cement eggs in California wineries. We have seen them at the Andis Winery in the Sierra Foothills and the Bridlewood Winery in the Santa Barbara wine country. We spoke with Quintessa winemaker Charles Thomas and he explained that he was the first to import these concrete eggs into the California wine scene. He’d been in the Rhone region of France visiting the great and famous Rhone winemaker Michel Chapoutier. Michel Chapoutier had these fermenting eggs built especially for his winemaking faciltities. For years the French and others had been using large rectangular cement tanks for fermenting and aging wines. The egg shape and the smallness of it, in the eyes of Michel Chapoutier, would accomplish much more. Charles Thomas uses several of these fermenting eggs, specifically for fermenting and aging Sauvignon Blanc. About 20% of the Sauvignon Blanc grapes are used from the concrete eggs to blend with stainless steel and neutral barrel Sauvignon Blanc grapes. The juice in the concrete egg is used to produce the “Illumination” S.B. of the Quintessa Winery. Charles says the egg does something that stainless steel and barrel fermenting cannot do. The egg imparts the fruit flavors but also gives a roundness, plus acidity and a touch of minerality, to the mouthfeel. Charles says without the egg he would have to use new oak barrels to accomplish these characters. That would also give the Sauvignon Blanc some oak flavoring, and that he does not want. We tried the Illumination and, indeed, it is a very unique and amazing Sauvignon Blanc wine. We love the egg!