Epoch’s Concrete: New Tanks!

Earlier this month, our winery received a very special delivery just in time for Harvest 2020 – seven brand new, custom concrete tanks all the way from Italy!  Here at Epoch, it is no secret that we love using concrete for winemaking, so we are beyond excited about adding these beauties to our fabulous concrete community.  To better introduce these new tanks to you, our hospitality team compiled a list of questions for Winemaker, Jordan Fiorentini, and below we have her answers…

 

What are the new concrete tanks called?

The tank form is called the Atlas  – it’s a new one, and we are the first to have it in the USA!  In order for them to sit on our platform, the bottoms had to be cut off the normal shape, making them customized just for us.  We purchased seven of these new tanks, and we are in love!

 

Where were they made and by whom?

Nico Velo is the producer from Northern Italy.  They make concrete tanks for the wine industry and export all over the world.  Many of our friend wineries in Chateauneuf du Pape use Nico Velo tanks.  Nico Velo sits at the foot of the Dolomites, and they use the natural products from that area to make the concrete.  To read more about them click here.

 

Does their shape have an effect on the winemaking?

The conical shape promotes gentle pressure on the grapes during fermentation, allowing more extraction from the cap (the grapes that float to the top of the fermentor once fermentation starts) during the time between pumpovers and punchdowns.

 

How much do they hold?

They hold 1,056 gallons, which equates to being big enough to ferment about 3.8 tons of grapes.

 

How much do they weigh?

They each weigh in at 5 tons!

 

Are they temperature controlled?

Yes, just like our other concrete vessels, they have heating and cooling glycol tubing embedded in the concrete.  Since our fermentation room is not temperature controlled (we use the windows to allow the outside pacific air to filter in), the space they are in can get hot in August and September and then cool off greatly in October/November.  We need fermentation to happen at our desired temperature, so we can adjust these tanks to meet those temperatures.  The great thing about concrete is that it’s very well insulated and doesn’t change temperature quickly when the room cools or warms down around it.  Therefore, we barely have to make temperature adjustments during the fermentation period, but we are happy we have the control when we need it!

 

Are we doing any fermentation in stainless steel anymore?  How are we fermenting our rosé?

Yes, we still have two 4-ton stainless steel fermentors and small stainless steel portatanks (that hold 1.5 tons of grapes) in which we ferment.  Rosé is still fermented in stainless steel barrels.

 

What wines/varieties are we going to be fermenting in these new tanks?

All of our reds will go into concrete!  Over the years, we’ve fermented all varieties in concrete, and we love the results.

 

What is your favorite aspect concrete fermentation and aging adds to the wine?

Fermentation-wise, I like the temperature control that the material allows; this means minimal intervention of the winemaker.  There is also the highlighted minerality that contact with concrete yields; we have found this minerality component to be much more pronounced when wine has aged in concrete vessels vs. wood or stainless steel.  Aging in concrete allows less oxygen overtime than barrels, and it keeps the wine in a very fresh state.  Because concrete allows the mineral aspects of the wine to express themselves, in my mind, we end up with a purer expression of the variety…which we love!

 

How do we clean the concrete tanks?

We clean all concrete tanks with a tartaric acid slurry.  We coat the inside of the tanks with a 30% tartaric acid solution and keep rinsing/reapplying until we see the concrete doesn’t react with the acid solution anymore.  Once there is no longer a reaction, it means the surface is neutralized.  After the tanks have been used once, this process doesn’t take very long.

 

Are there any wines that will see a huge shift in concrete use?

In general, we’ll see more concrete overall, which I think will bring about an even greater uptick in elegant/fresh traits throughout our wines.  I am sure I will have more ideas on where to put certain varieties once I get going with this harvest.  Bring it on, 2020!