Did you know that I have my own wine club? I do! I’ve partnered with my friends at The Cellar d’Or in Ithaca, NY to bring the best and most interesting wine from the East Coast and Midwest straight to your door. We call it “The Cork Club” and I pick two wines each month that never exceed $60 total before shipping. These aren’t bin ends or mass-produced, factory wine garbage wines. These are real wines, made by real people. These are the wines that I’m drinking myself and most excited about — from producers you’re never going to get anywhere else.
As this club continues on, evolving and changing over time, I’ve been trying some new things with it. First I picked two wines from the same winery a couple of times. Then I started sprinkling in some of the great ciders I’ve come across.
With this month’s wines, we do something else new and decidedly a little geeky. This month’s wines are not only from the same winery (Macari Vineyards on the North Fork of Long Island), but they are also the same grape (sauvignon blanc) from the same vintage (2017).
Why would I do something like this? Because it’s fun and a great way to explore the importance of winemaking decisions. Things like soils and rain and sunlight accumulation all matter too, of course, but I think sometimes winemaking gets lost or de-prioritized in the minds of some wine lovers.
So what is different about these wines? It’s all about the fermentation vessel (with some other things too).
The Macari Vineyards 2017 “Katherine’s Field” Sauvignon Blanc is 100% stainless steel fermented and it’s a great example of what Long Island sauvignon blanc is in its purest form. Clean, fresh and crunchy with acidity, it shows all of the citrus and stone fruit you’d expect, along with a melon quality that is so apparent in Long Island sauvignon blanc. This wine is a classic.
70% of Macari Vineyards 2017 “Lifeforce” Sauvignon Blanc was fermented in a concrete egg. Yes, a concrete tank in the shape of an egg.
The use of concrete in winemaking isn’t new — it dates back to the 19th century in Europe, where it’s still widely used today. The egg-shaped concrete vessel, however, dates back in Europe only to 2001. Concrete has several advantages over oak and stainless steel and, in some ways, offers characteristics of each. Unlike oak barrels, concrete doesn’t impart any of its own flavors or tannins to the wine, but it does allow slow air transfer, similar to barrels. Stainless steel is flavor-neutral but also doesn’t allow any air exchange.
The egg shape has its own impacts on the wine. Because there aren’t any corners or dead spaces, the wine basically stirs itself and its lees (residual yeast and other grape particles that precipitated out during fermentation). That brings added texture to egg-fermented wines.
That textural component is apparent here in this wine, which also contains 30% of the stainless steel fermented wine. You’ll find similar flavors, but the edges are more rounded and the mid-palate is a bit more mouth-filling. It’s a bigger wine without being heavy. Rounder, but still balanced and fresh.
I’ve become a bit obsessed with winemaker Kelly Urbanik Koch’s concrete-fermented wines (she also makes a “Lifeforce” cabernet franc). I’m excited to be able to share this one with you.
As always, I hope you enjoy the wines. Let me know what you think!