Translated for you: today’s wine needs cement

Translated for you: today’s wine needs cement

Wine produced in concrete barrels has undeniable advantages – we explore them together with The Guardian expert, David Williams.

The original article “Here’s what a wine needs now – concrete” by David Williams appears in The Guardian. The author explores the new reality of concrete barrels for wine production: we have translated it for you.

Before becoming an icy dystopian symbol, only to be rehabilitated by good society in the 2000s, concrete was the material of choice for Le Corbusier’s radiant and modernist future.from oak barrels to concrete ones, to stainless steel containers and even wooden barrelsThe same curious fate involved the presence of cement in the world of wine: At the beginning of the twentieth century, the immaculate concrete barrels represented the latest cry for your futuristic and avant-garde cellar. Concrete was easier to clean, more durable, better insulated and cost less than oak, which by comparison was starting to look inefficient, pre-industrial and retrograde. By the late 1980s, concrete was also starting to look a little dated. Stainless steel vessels, equipped with magical temperature control tools and available in all shapes and sizes, were a must for producing a lively, fruity wine that quickly became popular. The oak barrels, however never disappeared, were coming back into fashion, with their ability to make the wine softer and to release toasted or vanilla aftertaste,


With the arrival of the new millennium, concrete barrels were now considered obsolete and associated with the depressing cooperatives of southern Europe that could not keep up with the times. But not everyone. Many famous estates, including Bordeaux Château Paris , had remained faithful to concrete. In the Rhône region, Michel Chapoutier, a leading winemaker, was working with barrelmaker Nomblot to develop a novelty that would put concrete back into the fashion center.


The egg-shaped container that came out offered numerous advantages: as a material, concrete retains some of the porosity of oak wood, allowing the slow introduction of oxygen useful for the development of tannins , which stainless steel does not allow. Its shape favors spontaneous convective currents during fermentation, circulating the dead cells of the yeasts that give greater body to the wine, thus avoiding having to mix by hand (the bâtonnage ). In addition, thanks to its greater insulating properties, the temperature remains constant during fermentation. Even if concrete, like oak wood, does not release any specific aroma or flavor, thanks to its properties and the way the wine behaves in the barrel, it gives the finished product a distinctive style: purity of flavor , but also a intriguing complexity.

wine glass

All of this has convinced some winemakers that the egg will definitely take the place of the barrel once the price, currently £ 3,000, becomes more affordable. But I wouldn’t be so sure. For me, the subtle intertwining of wood and grapes is now so hardwired into drinkers’ pleasure zones that it cannot be abandoned so easily. Even if, with their irresistibly shaped vessels, now on display in all the cellars, for now the future is undeniably, once again, concrete .


Meanwhile, here are 6 proposals to try your hand at wines produced with concrete barrels .


  1. Zorzal ZZ Tupungato Malbec Cabernet Sauvignon – Mendoza, Argentina 2017. The Michelini brothers, the youngest of the Argentine trendy realities, have shown that concrete eggs can be very convincing, with the aromatic complexity of malbec; this combination with cabernet sauvignon comes from cheaper concrete barrels, but no less for this less delicious.
  2. Domaine de Bila-Haut Les Vignes de Bila-Haut Côtes du Roussillon Villages – France 2016. The Roussillon, outpost of Michel Chapoutier, biodynamic and mercurial producer of Rhône, who contributed to the development of the original concrete barrel, is fermented and aged in concrete barrels and possesses a vigorous earthy clarity of sun-kissed wild berries.
  3. Domaine de l’Ecu Orthogneiss, Muscadet Sèvre et Maine – France 2015. Cement lovers exploit its properties to communicate a sense of belonging to their wines, a goal that the masters of muscadet achieve with an intense but dry combination of whites, which they leave sensations of pungent citrus, minerals and savory tones.
  4. Montsecano Il Refugio Pinot Noir – Casablanca, Chile 2014. As in Argentina, most of the Chilean avant-garde production is equipped with concrete eggs , to distance themselves from the old methodology, weighed down by oak wood and overripe grapes ; this pinot is wonderfully graceful, agile and flexible, fresh and fragrant with floral tones of red fruits.
  5. Haywire White Label Gamay – Okanagan, Canada 2016. The brightest spark in the context of the lush Okanagen Valley (British Columbia) production is a staunch cement enthusiast. In this case the result of the Beaujolais gamay grapes is an irresistible succulence with wonderful strawberry tones.
  6. Coates & Seely Britagne Brut Reserve – Hampshire, England NV. There is a unique meticulousness to everything this fine Hampshire producer does, including using cement eggs for the fermentation of base wines used to produce the crisp, crisp and dry bubbles that characterize this Brut Reserve.

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