Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy! I got so excited to tell you about our Rosé release that I completely forgot to do the final follow-up to my barrel series! The final type of barrel that I wanted to tell you about was the stainless steel barrel. Now I know that when you think of aging wine, oak barrels are automatically what you picture; however, they are not the only barrels that winemakers have at their disposal.
Stainless steel barrels have only been used in the wine world for a few decades, but don’t let their relative youth fool you. They do have a plethora of benefits that come with their use, and only two negatives Let’s get the bad news out of the way first. One thing a stainless steel barrel cannot do is impact the texture of the wine by making it creamier. The other major drawback of using stainless steel barrels is that it cannot layer and increase the complexity of the wine that it is aging. A wine aged in an oak barrel has layers of complexity that a stainless steel barrel will never be able to duplicate.
The benefits of aging and stainless steel are so numerous I’m not quite sure where to start. The first is a no-brainer, they are more environmentally friendly because you don’t have to cut down trees to use them. Hand in hand with that benefit is the fact that they are a more economical choice for the winemaker. A stainless steel barrel can be used for upwards of 10 years at a time with no leaks, and then used multiple more times.
When a winemaker is finished using a stainless steel barrel, the cleansing process is much quicker and easier than the one used on oak barrels. There is greater control over the temperature of the liquid and the barrel, and there is no oxidation, which improves the quality of the wine.
The fact that the flavor does not transfer from the barrel to the wine is viewed in a very favorable light by some people. It results in a wine that is light, fresh, and crisp. Wines aged in stainless steel barrels remain fruit-forward even as they age, and it really allows anyone enjoying the wine to easily taste the talent of the winemaker. If desired, oak chips can be added to the aging process to impart some of the flavor and texture that would be gained by aging in an oak barrel.
In a couple of weeks I’m going to be back to tell you about everything Mom, my brother Taylor, and I have been doing in the vineyards. We have been working very hard during this important season of the grape growing world and I can’t wait to tell you more!