Château Larrivet Haut-Brion in Bordeaux takes advantage of Easter every year to display its egg-shaped vats. If the shape of the container piques the curiosity of visitors, it has qualities sought after by winegrowers all over the world.
An egg-shaped vat was the first piece of equipment Eric Blouin bought when he moved to the Clos Sainte-Thècle vineyard in 2019. Expatriated to British Columbia for several years, the winemaker had experimented different containers, such as oak barrels and stainless steel. The ovoid concrete tank, however, had caught his attention.
“It brings so many positive characteristics to the wine and it naturally manages the acidity,” explains the Quebec producer. It’s a great tool to have in your cellar. »
On the other side of the Atlantic, in the Muscadet region, Vincent Dugué also acquired an ovoid tank in 2019 at the Domaine des Frères Couillaud. The producer is unequivocal: this container had “the effect of a bomb”, both on the interest of consumers for its cuvées and on the vinification of its wines.
Muscadet still requires several months of aging on the lees to gain in complexity. At the Domaine des Frères Couillaud, this aging normally lasts between 10 and 12 months and takes place in underground tanks, typical of the region. However, the rapid evolution of the wine in the ovoid tank surprised the winemaker.
“We were truly blown away! exclaims Vincent Dugué over the phone.
If all winegrowers praise the positive effect of the ovoid tank on their wines, Yves Canarelli wanted to prove it. For three years, the Corsican winemaker vinified the same variety of grapes in four different containers. He put the same mash in an egg-shaped concrete tank and in another square-shaped one, in a stainless steel tank as well as in an oak barrel. The wines vinified in the ovoid tank won the taste test two out of three years.
“We find a roundness and a silkiness in the wine which are much superior, describes the Corsican producer in an interview. All this without crushing the wine, while retaining freshness. »
This observation does not surprise Jérôme Aubin. The businessman has been importing concrete tanks from the Nomblot company in America since 2007. The ovoid shape is by far the best-selling one.
The representative notes that winemakers use the ovoid tank more for whites than for reds and that aromatic varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc or Vermentino give better results in this container.
Nomblot has been producing the ovoid concrete tank for twenty years. The container bears the initials MC in homage to winemaker Michel Chapoutier, who came up with the idea in the 1990s.
At the time, the Rhône Valley producer was inspired by oak barrels to imagine a new vat. Its oval shape favors and prolongs the movement of the lees in the tank, which brings more texture and richness to the wine.
Michel Chapoutier wanted to take advantage of this shape without masking the aromas with those of the wood. Concrete, which has long been used to make square tanks, was ideal for designing this new container. This material allows micro-oxygenation of the wine and its thermal properties limit interventions in the cellar.
“I adopted biodynamics at the estate in 1991, says the famous winemaker. Concrete made of clay and limestone allows a balance in the forces of biodynamics. »
Many producers who adopt the principles of biodynamics use the ovoid tank. But that’s not always the case, says Jérôme Aubin at Nomblot.
As the label suggests, the Konkret cuvée, from the Austrian Meinklang estate, is vinified in an ovoid vat. It brings together two aromatic grape varieties, Gewurztraminer and Traminer. The latter’s skins remained in contact with the juice for a month. Result: the nose is absolutely beautiful. It opens with spring scents of lilac, rose and orange. On the palate, subtle bitterness brings length and finesse. It will give a chic touch to the classic Easter ham.
In the hands of Pierre-Marie Luneau, Burgundy melon, also known as Muscadet, is processed. This sometimes thin and tasteless white is fragrant, fat and very long. One of the keys to the winemaker’s success is the use of the egg-shaped concrete tank, especially with grapes from the Vera Cruz plot. Prolonged contact with the lees brings its richness and creamy touch. Then, the wine benefits from aging in wooden casks, which brings even more texture, without masking the flavors of orange, apple and flowers. At brunch with smoked salmon and an asparagus quiche, it will be magnificent.
Frontenac grape varieties have a reputation for being acidic. Very acidic. In 2021, winemaker Éric Blouin vinified his Frontenac Gris in his egg-shaped tank. The result is splendid. We find the flavors of tropical fruits, typical of the grape variety, but the mouth is elegant, balanced and persistent. There are very few left in specialized shops in Quebec, but if you find a bottle, you will be seduced.