Wine Country precaster presses concrete tank vs. oak barrel efficacy

Cast from high performance concrete mixes, the SuperEgg brings premium-wine making to a new level of efficiency, building on
Sonoma Cast Stone’s flagship tank, the Egg (right). The producer
promotes its precast wares as “Made in America, in the heart of California Wine Country.”

A Petaluma, Calif. specialty precaster’s latest innovation sets a new threshold for making wine in concrete tanks. With a capacity of just over 1,000 gallons or 3,800 liters, the Sonoma Cast Stone SuperEgg is more than twice the size of any other such vessel, including the producer’s own top gun, the 476-gal. Egg. The SuperEgg will allow users to produce greater quantities of premium wines more efficiently, at a cost-savings of nearly 30 percent per gallon. The impact on winery visitors will also be evident, as Sonoma Cast Stone offers a choice of color and logo treatment for tank branding, coupled with a guarantee against cracking or leaking. 

Fermentation in concrete versus traditional wood barrels “allows wine to showcase its true terroir, tasting more like where it’s from, with enhanced mouthfeel and no extraneous flavors to mask the pure fruit,” Sonoma Cast Stone notes. “The organic shapes made possible with concrete encourage fermentation by replacing corners with curves to keep all of the fluid circulating naturally. The egg is considered by many winemakers to be the perfect shape.” In addition, curved, dome-like tank tops have the great advantage of forcing grapes downward into the fluid to reduce the need for labor-intensive punch down.

Concrete can take the heat or the cold, and as a natural insulator will stabilize the temperature of whatever it encloses or contains. Such stability makes for a smooth and gradual fermentation in winemaking, as there are no temperature spikes to make the yeast become aggressive. For the same reason, concrete is ideal for storing and aging wines as well. Concrete is likewise porous, albeit on a microscopic scale. That characteristic, Sonoma Cast Stone notes, is where precast bests stainless steel, whose surface properties are too perfect for ideal fermentation. Without gradual introduction of micro-oxygenation that occurs in the producer’s concrete tank series, wine remains flat, unable to breathe or evolve.

After 20 years of making custom concrete products for luxury hotels, restaurants, homes and tasting rooms, Sonoma Cast Stone brings a unique craftsmanship into the production of concrete tanks and, management contends, has perfected the art of listening. The producer has worked directly with premier winemakers to design the most functional and easiest to use tanks available. —