In Fermentation Room 1 at King Estate, a distinctly different tank has been installed. While “the egg” is not a first for Oregon, it’s still relatively rare and is new for King Estate. The egg-shaped wine tank holds 476 gallons and is made of concrete. Manufactured in the U.S. by Sonoma Cast Stone, it is 8 feet tall with 7-inch thick walls and weighs 2.36 tons. It arrived May 9 and will be used for white wine in fall 2017.
As a vessel the egg shape is ancient, but in the past 10 years eggs have enjoyed a resurgence in popularity. Why isn’t entirely clear, but Director of Viticulture Ray Nuclo surmises it may simply be part of winemakers’ ongoing efforts to make a better wine. “It’s part of exploring and experimentation,” Nuclo says. “Oregon is known for a willingness to try new things – like growing grapes in Oregon,” he adds with a smile.
Eggs are expensive but with a longer lifespan than barrels. Fermentation is slower in an egg, which is good for white wines. Eggs can be used for both white and red wines but, as with barrels, eggs used for red wine aren’t used for white. The concrete walls have tiny pores that allow in some oxygen as barrels do. An added benefit is that eggs create “natural convection” because there aren’t any edges or dead corners, allowing the lees to naturally circulate throughout the wine.
Some have attributed mystical qualities to this phenomenon, going so far as to say that eggs create celestial energy, but Nuclo says that wasn’t a factor in King Estate’s decision to give the egg a try. If the experiment is successful, who knows? More eggs may be in the estate’s future.