We have written here before about the importance of caring for the exteriors of stainless steel wine barrels, like avoiding direct contact with uncoated carbon steel, preventing deep scratches and the occasional need for re-passivation. But just as important as it is to care for the exterior, the interior can be even more important, especially when using open head wine barrels for the small lot processing of grapes. The tools you use are key to care of the stainless wine drums. Most importantly, avoid carbon steel shovels, pitchforks and scoops as they can scratch the stainless steel. The best tools to use are those made of food grade polypropylene. These hygenic tools were specifically created for the handling of grapes, must and pomace and they are light-weight and easy to clean. These tool allows you to quickly move grapes and must, and they won’t damage or scratch stainless steel barrels, tanks or vats. Made of high-grade polypropylene which is virtually unbreakable and immune to rust or rot, they are approved under FDA regulations for direct food contact. They are also lightweight and can help vineyard and winery owners increase productivity and reduce labor costs by moving and processing grapes faster and more efficiently than ever before. Using shovels, rakes and pitchforks with tapered and starprofiled tines enable easy piercing and gathering of grapes and pomace. The material facing surface of the tines are flat, not round, so they won’t scratch or damage your stainless steel wine barrels. One of the primary benefits of using stainless steel wine barrels is their longevity, but they must be cared for and one of the best ways to do this is to use the right tools.
STEEL DRUM INDUSTRY NEWS, TRENDS AND ISSUES
Archive for the ‘Wine’ Category
There has been a recent trend towards "naked" or "un-oaked" wines made in stainless steel wine barrels, but there still remains a high demand for wines that are made in oak barrels. We continue, however, to see more and more wine makers using our stainless steel wine barrels with oak alternatives. From helping winemakers at smaller wineries compete at lower price points to broadening their oak "spice racks," winemakers are using oak alternatives in as many different ways as there are alternative products. While many winemakers still use oak barrels, they do report the quality, consistency, flavor and aroma profiles of oak alternatives have improved, and some say they can depend on oak alternatives almost like barrels. The use of spiral oak inserts help add not only oak seasoning with aromas of vanilla and toast and other attributes but also help with the tannin structure and mouth-feel. About 20 years ago, the introduction of micro-oxygenation and competition to make better—yet still affordable—wines drove winemakers to use some of the earliest oak alternatives. Back then it was the odds and ends from coopers, folks just tossed them in the tank to bump up the oak notes on finished wines. Soon, though, suppliers saw the potential and invested in improving the alternative products. Wine makers still want to see barrels, but there’s so much success in this alternative to oak; it’s much more precise than it used to be. With the wine mainly staying in tanks there’s less risk of contamination from barrels or during racking or filling. It’s also easier to modulate oak flavors by adding more alternatives or moving the wine off the oak. When winemakers have to deal with several green lots because of cooler vintages, oak alternatives used early in primary and secondary fermentation can really help tone down green aromatic and green olive flavors. The same goes for pronounced pyrazine flavors, with a little bit of micro-oxygenation and oak chips in the tank can help deal with them. The quality of oak alternatives has now been matched in consistency. Winemakers can now craft a wine profile and have a hit every time, which is important to many clients who may start with one batch but require almost exponential growth if the wine is popular with consumers. Some would wager that most consumers wouldn’t be able to perceive taste differences between wines matured in barrels versus wines aged with oak alternatives. And one wouldn’t be surprised if critics or those in the trade would be able to get it half right when presented with a flight of barrel and stave-aged wines. With the quality there, winemakers are increasingly open about their use of staves because they believe in the quality, and they are looking to expand their winemaking style and offer affordable wines. While for some winemakers a new oak barrel is still preferred, there are many cases now where stainless steel wine barrels, like those manufactured by Skolnik, used in conjunction with these oak alternatives, give the wine maker more tools to play with rather than none at all.
In late February of this year, the highly anticipated annual Premiere Napa Valley event occurred with several Skolnik stainless steel wine barrel customers showing very well and fetching record prices for their wines. Founded in 1997, Premiere provides funding for the Napa Valley Vintners organization (NVV) to further its mission to promote, protect and enhance the Napa Valley appellation, its wines and its community. Revenue comes from the auctioning of rare, ultra-boutique, one-of-a-kind wines, crafted in as few as 60 bottles and never more than 240. For Napa Valley winemakers, Premiere is a chance to express something they have always wanted to convey in a wine in very limited production for this one moment in time and then never again. For attendees, it’s the chance to preview the vintage coming into market. This year’s 67 successful bidders had the chance to choose from an array of wine lots as diverse as the grape varieties grown in the Napa Valley itself, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Chardonnay, Malbec, Petit Verdot, Petite Sirah, Semillon, Syrah, and even sparkling wine. The Napa Valley Vintners’ 17th annual Premiere Napa Valley today brought in a resounding $3.04 million, nearly matching last year’s record-breaking event. The auction’s 211 lots donated by 218 NVV members were purchased in just over three hours of lively and spirited bidding at The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone. For anyone with no aspirations of buying wine at the auction, the weekend’s primary point of interest lies in the tasting held before the auction, where these 212 barrel lots are made available for members of the trade and the media to sample. All lots are from the 2011 vintage and are due to hit the market it 12 to 24 months. 2011 was by many accounts the most challenging vintage Napa (and most of Northern California) has seen in decades. Thanks to very heavy early-season rains just before harvest, many vintners battled significant amounts of botrytis, mildew and grey rot on their generally soggy fruit. Those few who managed to pick before the rains had absolutely stellar fruit, if somewhat lower yields than normal. Those who managed to get their fruit dried out, took drastic action to combat botrytis and mildew, and then managed to get the fruit off the vine in late October had between 20 and 40 percent less crop, but good fruit at relatively lower sugars and higher acidity levels than normal. Those who waited into November took their chances with mixed results. With that said, many wine makers achieved spectacular results. Judging by the auction’s proceeds of $3.04 million, which didn’t quite top last year’s record haul of $3.1 million, the demand for Napa’s wine remains strong. We were happy to see several of our favorite stainless steel wine customers at the top of many critics lists of the 2011 vintage!