Before the emergence of stainless steel barrels, almost all wines were aged and stored in oak barrels, and their history as wine storage containers is very long. The type, barrel type, and degree of baking are the basic elements that distinguish different oak barrels, and different elements also affect the impact of oak barrels on wine. The commonly used and popular oak tree species selected for oak barrels are mainly Louvre oak, summer oak, and American white oak from Europe. The great advantage of oak barrels is that they can provide unique oak barrel flavors for wine, such as oak, coffee, tobacco, vanilla, and chocolate.
The flavors brought by oak barrels are intertwined and integrated with the original fruity and aged aromas of grapes, which are favored by most wine enthusiasts. Although many wineries nowadays choose stainless steel barrels when making wine, in order to cater to consumer tastes, some wineries will add oak bars, oak blocks, or even oak powder to the wine fermented in stainless steel barrels, in order to maintain the oak barrel flavor in the wine. In addition, because oak barrels are made by binding and baking a certain number of oak barrel boards, there are inevitably small gaps between the boards, providing conditions for appropriate "micro oxidation" of wine, which is beneficial for the natural maturation of wine. During the micro oxidation process, the phenolic substances of wine react with the aroma of the oak barrel, resulting in a more fragrant aroma of the final wine.
Stainless steel bucket is an inert container made of stainless steel material cast, with good sealing and strong corrosion resistance. The increasing popularity of stainless steel barrels is mainly attributed to their durability and sustainability. The service life of oak barrels is very short, usually three to five years. As the number of uses increases, oak barrels will gradually lose their original oak aroma, and the acidity of wine will gradually erode the oak barrels. Compared to stainless steel barrels, the service life is much longer. Stainless steel barrels generally have a larger volume. When brewing wine of the same capacity, stainless steel barrels can save more purchase costs than oak barrels. This is also one of the reasons why some wineries choose stainless steel barrels for wine brewing. At the same time, compared to the oak flavor that oak barrels bring to wine, some winemakers believe that stainless steel barrels are neutral and odorless, which can well retain the original personality and unique flavor of wine grapes, and the wine produced is more pure and natural.
Although the small gaps in oak barrels can provide a slightly oxidizing environment for the aged wine, the rate of oxidation is relatively uncontrollable, which is a major challenge for winemakers. A stainless steel barrel with good sealing is different. Its non breathability allows winemakers to grasp the oxidation rate of wine and conduct moderate oxidation based on the taste of the wine, which can accurately monitor the quality of the wine. Furthermore, the smooth contact surface of the stainless steel barrel is easy to clean, which can reduce the impact of residual substances from the previous brewing process, which is also one of the reasons for the sustainable use of stainless steel barrels.
It is worth mentioning that there is no good or bad, good or bad, or right or wrong, orthodox or wild style comparison between oak barrels and stainless steel barrels. Choosing oak barrels or stainless steel barrels, or containers such as concrete fermentation tanks that are not mentioned in the article, in the process of wine making, are all choices made by the winery based on the expected quality of the wine. Actually, no matter what materials are used, the wine produced has a unique flavor
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