We recently installed two traditional winemaking vessels: a concrete amphora and a concrete egg. Why look to the past? For research and development. We want to precisely analyze how these vessels impact a wine’s sensory characteristics, such as flavour and texture.
Amphorae are uniquely shaped vessels (think similar to a vase) that have been used since antiquity. If you were to drink wine in the Greek or Roman era, it was likely drawn from a clay amphora. In contrast, concrete eggs are exactly that: egg-shaped vessels made from concrete. Although concrete vessels have been used since the 19th century, the egg shape is a relatively new development dating to the early 2000s. Both vessels are designed to produce wines with added richness and depth, with the porous concrete replicating the effect of a barrel without the toasty oak influence.
Our goal is to compare the impact of three different vessels – an amphora, a concrete egg, and a stainless steel tank – with the same volume of Grüner Veltliner from the 2015 vintage. It is critical that we are comparing ‘like with like’. A winemaker may state a preference for concrete eggs, but has he/she tried the same wine from an alternate vessel of the same volume? As US-based wine writer W. Blake Gray recently wrote, the size of a vessel has a definite impact on a wine’s sensory properties.
With all other factors being equal, the dependent variable will be the vessel itself. This will give us the opportunity to evaluate and analyze the impact of each vessel on the finished wine. And see whether theory – what we should expect – is consistent with reality. The results will also give us a better understanding of how we should use the vessels moving forward.