Oak barrels have now been replaced by stainless steel wine barrels. Steel drums are durable, which means that they can be used for years at a stretch. It makes economic sense for wineries to use steel barrels in place of the oak drums.
Wine making is an art that requires years to learn. Every aspect of wine making is an art, right from choosing the grapes to the storage of the wine. If you mishandle any part of the wine making process, the quality of the product will suffer. So, you have to make sure that everything is done in the right manner. It is not something you can do in haste.
Aging is an important part in the process of wine making. It can make all the difference in the taste. Ask any wine expert and they will tell you that aging is the difference between a good and bad wine most of the time. The aging of wine is now done in stainless steel barrels.
Oak barrels, which were once used for storing wine and aging it, have now been replaced by stainless steel barrels. A major benefit of oak barrels was that they imparted a distinct flavor to the wine. Wine lovers all across the world loved the flavor. Even when the oak barrels were replaced by stainless steel barrels in commercial wineries, there was no change in the fondness of the enthusiasts for oak flavor in wine. The wineries maintained that flavor by adding oak chips, planks or powder to wine stored in the barrels.
There are some reasons behind the popularity of stainless steel drums. These barrels are durable, which means that they can be used for years at a stretch. Oak barrels, on the other hand, have short life spans. Those barrels can be used just once or twice as wood loses its flavor in a year or two. Wine is a product that is inherently acidic and corrodes the wooden barrels. The effect drastically reduces the life of the oak barrels.
The economic advantage steel barrels provided became an important factor behind their popularity. Wineries require barrels in large quantities and steel barrels help them reduce costs. Oak barrels are costly and do not last very long. Hence, when the wineries have the option of using steel barrels, they use them and bring down their costs. At the same time, they also take care that there is no compromise in the oak flavor. The use of steel barrels results in substantial savings for the wineries.
Steel barrels have another major advantage. They have neutrality of flavor. It means that the usage of such drums has no effect on the flavor of the wine. One can add any flavor to it, which was just not possible with oak barrels. In other words, you have the freedom of adding flavor to the steel barrels. This makes steel barrels perfect for flavor experimentation.
Wineries are unable to control the air exposure of wine in oak barrels as these drums are naturally porous. Although they are good for storing wine, these drums limit your options when it comes to air control. As such, wineries lose the ability to control the taste of wine. When using stainless steel wine barrels, wineries can ensure controlled exposure of air to the wine. They can create an exact taste in the wine.
There is more. Stainless steel barrels are easier to clean in comparison with oak barrels. Thanks to the smooth inner surface, these can easily be cleaned. It is completely free of scratches which prevents the lingering of the smell of previous wines. There are absolutely no remnants that can interfere with the quality of wine.
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