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Argentinian inspiration for Tony Bush Wines in NZ

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Tony Bish Wines Golden Eggs in Napier Urban Winery

Tony Bish Wines Golden Eggs in Napier Urban Winery [©Tony Bish Wines]

Tony Bish Wines 2016 Golden Egg
The Golden Eggs are the pride of the Tony Bish Winery
Tony Bish with his Golden Eggs

 

In 2014, New Zealand Winemaker Tony Bish fell in love with eggs on a trip to Mendoza in Argentina. But these eggs had nothing to do with chickens and everything to do with creating wine with textural complexity and unique qualities.

Three years later and he has one oak and three concrete egg fermenters as the centrepieces of his art deco winery in Napier on NZ's north island, where they nurture the development of Tony's prized chardonnay wines.

Tony Bish is an artisan winemaker dedicated to the noble grape of chardonnay to the exclusion of all others and he's always casting his eye about for innovation and creativity in his chosen field.

In 2014, with a group of winemakers and related friends, Tony visited Mendoza in Argentina and a few wine regions of Chile, taking in the All Blacks vs Argentina test in Buenos Aires as a bonus.

They visited many interesting wineries, and in some of the more innovative and eclectic wineries discovered the use of concrete egg fermenters. The group had seen these in magazines, as they've been in use in France, Italy and Napa Valley for many years, but no-one had tried the resulting wines.

As one, they loved the textural complexity, fruit purity and outright uniqueness of these wines, regardless of variety engaged and it proved to be a lightbulb moment for Tony – he  wanted to work with these beautiful vessels back in Hawke’s Bay.

There are several aspects of fermenting and ageing in egg shaped vessels that bring benefits and distinctiveness. Firstly, the egg shape causes convection currents that hold yeast in suspension, and yeast clings to the concrete surface on the entire bottom half. These two effects result in the textural richness typical of egg-made wines.

There is also the thermal passivity of working with a vessel that has 70mm thick concrete walls. Heat given off in ferment is absorbed, and then returned during malolactic ferment. (Tony has built cooling pipes within the walls of the egg, so temperature manipulation is an available option.)

On return from his South American adventure, Tony quickly realised the freight cost of shipping these 2.2 tonne eggs was prohibitive so he decided to find someone local willing to work with him to prototype and build concrete eggs in Hawke's Bay. Up stepped Josh Winters of NZ Tanks. Together they cracked the complicated task of building the moulds, figuring out the concrete mix, sourcing the stainless steel parts, and putting together the first NZ built concrete egg fermenters.

Its truthful to say that just as you can’t make omelettes without cracking eggs, Tony and Josh couldn’t make successful concrete eggs without cracking a few eggs along the way too. It was a journey of trial and error but both are now happy the destination is an excellent product, one christened the Golden Egg.

Tony Bish's first subsequent wine release was the 2015 Golden Egg Chardonnay, which met widespread critical acclaim and sold out on allocation in a matter of days. The wine was texturally rich, varietally pure, and unique. Super premium Mendoza clone handpicked chardonnay fruit was used, free run only and aged sur lie for 12 months. The result was encouragement enough to keep developing the egg fermenters.

In 2016, two eggs (1600L each) were made for the Golden Egg Chardonnay and again this wine has received fantastic reviews and intense demand.

A new project, not egg shaped but equally intriguing, takes Tony's focus in 2017 in the form of an Urban Winery in Ahuriri, Napier. Housed in the old art deco National Tobacco Building, it features the three concrete eggs and in pride of place is a stunning French oak egg made by Taransaud and imported from France.

The cellar door, planned to open in late 2017, has been crafted with the assistance of some of New Zealands most talented creatives and  provides an exceptional home for the winery and its ovoid shaped treasures.

 

Notes:

The Golden Egg Chardonnay 2016 will be available at Armadale Cellars in Melbourne later in 2017.

Chardonnay from the oak egg will be released late in 2018.

 

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July 11th, 2017
 
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