By Justin Taylor
The Greek wine culture as early as 3000 BC was based around the use and utility of large format storage containers known as amphorae. Wine transport and consumption originated in these large clay pots, often sealed with a loose fitting lid and resin to hold it in place. These containers were critical for wine to make it from the cellar to the table. The clay pot created a liquid tight vessel with the ability of small amounts of air to contact the wine through the clay surface. In addition to other timeless practices still used today in modern winemaking, concrete has replaced clay in the market with new tanks and storage vessels to simulate these amphorae.
Currently stainless steel leads the market for wine storage and production with its build to suit nature for cellars everywhere. The concrete wine tanks are significantly heavier than their stainless steel counterparts, but they offer unique features that are hard for steel to accomplish. The temperature consistency of a chilled concrete tank will generally be much more uniform, in addition to the insulating capacity of concrete. As previously mentioned, it will also permit small amounts of oxygen to interact with the wine which helps brighten subtle aromas and keep wines smelling clean and true to the fruit.
When placed next to a steel tank, the shape of concrete tanks are rather entertaining. The early developers chose an iconic egg shape for the tanks, which alters the physics of storage as well as space considerations in the cellar. For a great example of wine produced in concrete, consider purchasing a bottle of Mer Soleil Silver Chardonnay that is sold in a ceramic bottle. It embodies a great interpretation of what concrete cellaring can do to a white wine.
The answer to this issues wine and vine trivia was concrete, if you had not already guessed. The question for the next issue: What are some of the signs to monitor for wine aging in your bottle cellar at home?
Justin Taylor is Winemaker at Parker-Binns Vineyard and Winery, Mill Spring, NC.