THE BIG EGG
We look down the list of things we get excited about, and the word “concrete” isn’t usually on it. That is, unless you’re a winemaker.
Wander through our winery and you may catch a glimpse of a large grey egg or an Eiffel-shaped concrete vessel – rather industrial looking structures, sitting pretty in a sea of traditional open fermenters and barrels. Concrete may seem like the last place we’d want to put our grapes. So, why do we use it?
The secret is in both the conical shape and porous nature of the material. The 'oval' shape of these concrete vessels holds the grape skins down lower when they’re fermenting, so less pumping is needed to extract the tannin. It’s a gentler process, that leads to a softer texture in the wine. Add to that, the tiny holes in concrete allow oxygen into the juice without imparting any oak flavour or tannin, so the aromatics and fruit purity in the resulting wine really shine.
This year, Travis, Jimmy and our winemaking team had enough fruit yield from our V9 Cabernet block for a little experiment. They fermented some of the grapes in a concrete Eiffel and some in stainless steel open fermenters. All other factors in the process were the same – same fruit, same day, same additions, same barrel-ageing.
“Whilst both the resulting wines were of very high quality, what we discovered was the wine in concrete had a softer texture and incredible vibrancy – it really jumped out of the glass and was a more complete wine earlier in the process. We realised just how impactful oxygenation is in the fermentation stage, not just when the wine is ageing" says Jimmy.
This opportunity for innovation has not only provided new insight but has big implications for Voyager's mission to create a sustainable legacy. Oak barrels serve their intended purpose (imparting flavour and texture into the wine) for a limited time before they are retired. By comparison, a concrete egg or Eiffel will probably outlive us all, offering way more mileage!
A solution that allows us to reduce our reliance on a finite natural resource and move to a more sustainable material is very significant, as we look to reduce our carbon footprint. This important work is continuing, as we introduce more concrete vessels into the winery, and the team experiment further with the material to create exciting and nuanced Voyager wines.