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Archive for the ‘Wine’ Category

It Is Time to Embrace Oak Alternatives

May 12th, 2016 by Dean Ricker

Filed under: Skolnik Newsletter, Wine

At the recent second annual Wines & Vines Oak Conference, Celia Welch, a wine maker for more that 30 years, said it is time to embrace oak alternatives such as stainless steel wine barrels.

Welch said that, “the environmental and cost benefits of alternative products should be enough for winemakers to take them seriously. Chips, staves and other barrel alternatives use more of the oak trees harvested for wine aging and also cost far less than new barrels.” Today, winemakers have more options to use oak in a variety of ways rather than just traditional barrels. “We’re missing an opportunity. These alternative products we’re hearing about are really, really good,” she said. Welch’s remarks are notable in that most winemakers for wineries producing high-priced, premium wines rarely talk about their use of alternatives publicly and will typically only say they use them sparingly. It’s common for those in the trade and consumer wine press to describe the use of oak alternatives in a disparaging way such as a mark of poor winemaking or as a way to cover up the flaws of wine made with low-quality fruit. She also recalled how barrel cellars used to be much quieter before they housed the noisy machinery that now provides climate control and other equipment typically accompanied by the blare of music from cellar workers’ radios. Barrel topping often only was marked by the quiet tapping of hammers used to gently loosen wooden bungs from bungholes. “I just remember the sound…there was a romantic quietude to a day of topping in a quiet cellar,” Welch said. The winemaker also remembered reaching into the darkness of barrel racks trying to find those wooden bungs that sometimes became saturated with wine and started to rot, providing a comfy home to fruit fly larvae. “I don’t remember sterilizing those bungs or anyone saying we needed to soak those bungs in really hot water to get them clean,” she said. Welch also asked the audience not to forget the lessons of the 2014 Napa earthquake that toppled barrel stacks at many wineries in the southern half of Napa County. One of those hardest hit was Laird Family Estate, where Welch stores many of her barrels. The earthquake struck at 3:20 a.m., and Welch said if it had come at a different hour, the scene would have been much more devastating than just toppled barrels. “No one would have made it out of that chai alive,” she said. She said winemakers can stack barrels lower, use the latest seismically secure racks or strap the top barrels to their racks so they don’t bounce off and cause other racks to topple. “I don’t want any of us to lose sight of the earthquake we had two years ago,” she said. “Hopefully the point has been hit home well, but we owe it to our colleagues to do everything we can do to keep ourselves, our product and coworkers safe.

Check out the complete line of Skolnik Stainless Steel Wine Barrels.

Stick A Cork In It

April 12th, 2016 by Dean Ricker

Filed under: Skolnik Newsletter, Wine

Oxygen can be the enemy of wine, too much and you get vinegar. Skolnik’s stainless steel wine barrels are considered to be hermetic, meaning oxygen cannot pass through them. But once wine goes into the bottle, if the cork is bad, too much oxygen can enter the bottle and ruin the wine. In a recent article on Wine Folly, we learn why corks matter. One aspect of aging has to do with the reaction of fruit acids with the alcohol. This process reduces sourness in the wine, but it’s really only important for very tart wines, the ones coming from cold climates. The complex oxidation process is the second aspect of aging. When oxygen interacts with a wine, it produces many changes — ultimately yielding an oxidized wine that has a nutty aroma. This is a desired taste for sherry styles, but quickly compromises the aromas in fresh white wines. However the oxidation process provides benefits along the way to that unwanted endpoint. Many wines develop undesirable aromas under anaerobic —no oxygen— conditions; a small amount of oxygen will eliminate those trace thiol compounds responsible for the aroma of rotten eggs or burnt rubber. Oxidation products also react with the red anthocyanin molecules from the grapes to create stable pigments in red wine. The way a bottle is sealed will directly affect how much oxygen passes into the wine each year. That will directly affect the aging trajectory and determine when that wine will be at its "best." Glass is a hermetic material. But all wine bottle closures admit at least a smidgen of oxygen. The actual amount is the key to a closure’s performance. A typical cork will let in about one milligram of oxygen per year. This sounds like a tiny bit, but after two or three years, the cumulative amount can be enough to break down the sulfites that winemakers add to protect the wine from oxidation. A small fraction of corks, 1–2% today, end up tainting the wine with a moldy smelling substance, trichloroanisole (TCA). This TCA is created via a series of chemical reactions in the bottle: chlorine from the environment reacts with the natural lignin molecules in the woody cork to make trichlorophenol, which is in turn methylated by mold. TCA has one of the most potent aromas in the world — some people can smell as little as 2 parts per trillion in wine. So, in every eight cases of wine, one or two bottles will smell like wet cardboard or simply not taste their best. This is why restaurants let you taste the wine before pouring — to let you judge if the wine is tainted. A 1% failure rate seems high in today’s world. Check out the full range of Skolnik’s stainless steel wine barrels here.

Oak Stave Selection for Stainless Steel Wine Barrels

March 15th, 2016 by Dean Ricker

Filed under: Skolnik Newsletter, Wine

While variation in oak barrels’ contribution to wine is generally accepted by winemakers, this variation can have unintended impacts on wine composition and the economics of production. To reduce this variability, it is important to understand oak chemical composition. Wood-extractable compounds can be directly transferred from oak to wine. They are extracted during winemaking and élevage in barrels, and the extraction rate can vary depending on wood and wine. Even if wood-extractable compounds represent a minor component of total oak chemistry, they play an important role in wine style. In this group there are ellagitannins (representing the majority of oak-extractable compounds) and a pool of aromatic compounds present in untoasted wood (native aromatic compounds) that are responsible for oaky aromas. For example, whisky lactones are responsible for coconut and fresh wood notes but also contribute to wine freshness and fruitiness. Non-extractable compounds, while not extractable as such, are precursors of volatile compounds produced during the toasting process. The degradation of hemicelluloses during barrel toasting generates compounds responsible for toasted/roasted aromas, whereas lignins generate compounds responsible for vanilla/pastry nuances and spicy and smoky notes. The amount produced during toasting varies according to time, temperature and wood humidity. Toasting also degrades ellagitannins and can increase or decrease oaky notes (whisky lactones) depending on temperature. Thus, the contribution of these different compounds to wines at the end of élevage can vary depending on initial oak composition and toasting management but also winemaking and aging protocols.

Click here to see the line of Skolnik Stainless Steel Wine Barrels.

Buzz Worthy New Item at Unified Expo

February 10th, 2016 by Dean Ricker

Filed under: Skolnik Newsletter, Wine

At this year’s annual Unified Wine and Grape Symposium held January 26 -28 in Sacramento, CA, there was a new item that generated a lot of buzz. The Corvin, is a device that allows users to pour and enjoy wine from their favorite bottles without pulling the cork. Coravin will forever change the way wine is enjoyed, served and sold. For the first time, wine enthusiasts will be able to enjoy wine by the glass without committing to the whole bottle. Coravin’s groundbreaking wine access technology leaves the cork in place, safeguarding the wine from oxidation thus allowing the wine to evolve naturally. Now wine lovers can enjoy and share the same bottle during multiple occasions, over weeks, months or even longer without wasting a drop. The Coravin System also enables wine drinkers to access wine across multiple bottles during a single occasion. The Coravin Wine Access System empowers wine stores and wineries to offer customized tastings to support increased opportunities for bottle sales. Retail outlets can now offer vertical or horizontal tastings, inspect bottles for flaws and faults, and customize and expand their tastings — at a moment’s notice. It also helps them educate customers by comparing and contrasting vintages, glass by glass. Once you pull the cork from a bottle to pour wine, the wine is exposed to air and oxidation begins. The Coravin Wine Access System leaves the cork in place. First, a thin, hollow needle passes through the foil and cork to access the wine. Then the bottle is pressurized with argon, an inert gas in the air we breathe that winemakers have been using for years. The argon pressurization pushes the wine through the needle so that it flows into your glass without letting any oxygen in the bottle. Once the needle is removed, the cork naturally reseals itself, and the remaining wine continues to evolve naturally. For a video demonstration, please visit www.coravin.com/tech.

Click here to see the line of Skolnik Stainless Steel Wine Barrels.