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Concrete fermenters do a fine job

I know some dynamos in the wine business. But few compare to the indefatigable Christine Coletta, who never ceases to amaze with what she undertakes.

I know some dynamos in the wine business.

But few compare to the indefatigable Christine Coletta, who never ceases to amaze with what she undertakes. This week we spent a few hours together as she updated me on the latest happenings at her Haywire Winery in Summerland, also the home of Okanagan Crush Pad and Bartier Brothers.

If Coletta’s name sounds familiar, as executive director of the B.C. Wine Institute (and one of the key players in founding VQA) in the 1990s she was a driving force in the industry. She later forged a successful wine-driven marketing and PR company before buying a vineyard site in 2007 and opening her own winery in 2010.

Haywire’s far-reaching industry connections are already paying off. Its team (which includes former senior liquor board portfolio manager David Scholefield) is working with consultants Alberto Antonini and Pedro Parra, who are engaged in regions around the world.

Their most innovative move to date has been to switch from stainless steel and barrel to concrete fermenters, mainly at Antonini’s behest. At the time there was much ballyhoo and not a few cynics who dismissed the concrete fermenters as somewhat gimmicky.

However, a few years into the program, the results are beginning to show and quite dramatically at that. Supporters like concrete for its neutral state and tendency to preserve the wine’s real character without it being masked by oak.

Being porous, the concrete allows the wine to breathe just as if it were in oak but without any flavour being imparted. The spherical shape of the tanks also makes for a gentler fermentation process, they suggest. Haywire was so convinced they went out and purchased another six 4,500-litre fermenters, making Haywire the biggest “concrete” winery in Canada. Oh, and they’ve also embarked on an amphora program, with initial trials already under way.

On this trip I was lucky enough to be able to taste some comparisons between 2013, where concrete was used almost exclusively, and 2012 and earlier, when it was used only partially. The results are pretty interesting.

The wines that have spent time only in concrete (in particular Chardonnay) seem to present more assertive aromas, more broadly textured mouthfeel, and overall less angular, more integrated wines.

While Haywire went to work implementing Antonini and Parra’s suggestions to make the most of their home-estate terroir, they also purchased nearby 312-acre Garnet Valley Ranch.

It’s a stunning tract of land that Parra’s surveying suggests could yield up to 60 acres of prime vineyards.

The highest elevation vineyard site in the valley (600-680 metres), it’s virgin land and organically farmed with a gentle south-facing slope. The plan is to leave the site in as natural a state as possible with wildlife corridors already in place and a man-made pond attracting plentiful birdlife.

Here’s a few Haywire drops (with varying degrees of concrete influence) worth hunting down:

Haywire Baby Pink Bub Rosé
The winery’s sparkling wines have quickly become popular, and this wine is just one reason why. This cheerful, cherry, strawberry and apple-toned bubble (50/50 Chardonnay/Pinot Noir) is a refreshing summer sipper or flexible food partner in a handy half-bottle size (375 millilitres), 90 points.

Haywire Pinot Noir White Label 2012 (Secrest, Oliver)
Bright cherry notes up front, followed by a medium-bodied palate with good structure and earthy undertones, wrapped in easy tannins (89 points, $2).

Haywire Canyonview Pinot Noir 2011
One of just 12 wines awarded in this year’s B.C. Lieutenant Governor’s Awards, from low yield, with judicious use of used French oak, dark cherry notes with some mineral hints, well-structured but very approachable (91 points, $35 from the winery (

Tim Pawsey writes about wine for numerous publications and online as the Hired Belly at Contact: