What the Egg?

July 11, 2022

I got a few funny looks when I first introduced the first Golden Egg into the New Zealand winemaking scene, but overseas, innovative winemakers have been doing it for yolks, I mean yonks! 

Concrete Eggs were first conceived in 2001 by Michel Chapoutier from Maison M. Chapoutier, a 200-year-old winery in France’s Rhone Valley.  Chapoutier, aimed to create an egg shaped concrete wine fermenter.  After the first tank was created and installed at the maison, word quickly spread about this unique invention throughout the rest of the world. 

The magic of the egg is its shape, the smooth internal surface and lack of corners, it promotes a natural current or “vortex” within the fermenter. As the active yeast ferments wine, it becomes lighter and rises to the top of the fermenter. Cooler wine then sinks to the bottom, resulting in the formation of a continuous convection current helping to build flavour and texture, as if it stirs itself!  Hands off winemaking to the extreme.

I first saw a concrete egg in action on a trip to South America where I noticed a lot of wineries were using small concrete eggs to process wine, in addition to tanks and barrels. It came at a time when I was in search of alternative vessels and ways to innovate within one variety, at a time when New Zealand Chardonnay was in need of some innovation.

With no viable way of getting the 2.2 tonne eggs from Europeall the way to NZ, in 2015 I collaborated with NZ Tanks here in Hastings, after many prototypes, the boys and I produced NZ’s first concrete egg. 

We started off in 2018 with 3 concrete eggs which still to this day produce our Golden Egg Chardonnay. Now, at The Urban Winery, we have 5 concrete eggs, but the egg infatuation didn’t stop here. Queue the Taransaud French Oak Ovum.

The Ovum was designed in France in 2010 by Taransaud and crafted in French Oak. Falling in love with the French Oak ‘Ovum’ was easier than falling off a bike. A hybrid of the traditional Oak Barrel and the fermenting technique of the egg, the Ovum too stirs itself, eliminating the need for human intervention. When we purchased the Ovum, it was New Zealand’s first Oak Ovum, the first in the Southern Hemisphere and one of only 10 in the world. The Ovum produces our Zen Chardonnay, which is a world first of its kind. 

Where to from here?  We think we’ve cracked it (see what we did there!) the beauty of what we do at Tony Bish Wines is showcase the beautiful canvas that is Hawkes Bay Chardonnay.  Golden Egg and Heartwood, same fruit, different fermentation vessel = unique wines all from the same vineyard.  It keeps us entertained and pushes you to think more about how these great wines are made.

If you’re not innovating, you’re standing still.  If you’ve meet me, you know that’s not something I do very well.   I love to keep you on your toes. We'll always push the boundaries of winemaking, so stay tuned for something else we have bubbling away…

Cheers, Tony

Antony Bish
Antony Bish