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What are the disadvantages of storing and transporting wine in steel barrels? I am an MBA student from Christ University, lavasa, india and this is a question regarding my internship project. Please help me clear this out. I can only find pros about this but not one con. I would like to know if there are any cons about this system.

  • Do you want the traditional barrel aging flavors or are you just wanting to store the wine for a while? You need to clarify your question, it is too broad. There are no cons in storing wine in steel other than you don't get the oak barrel flavors and aging advantages. – farmersteve May 16 at 16:47
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Well for starters, the taste. Fermentation (aging) is very important for both wine and liquor alike, and the oak barrels are used because they provide extra flavor. In the case of wine, and specifically red wine, the oak brings out the spice and tannins that many people are looking for.

Oak wine barrels have been used for centuries in the fermentation and aging processes of wine by wine crafters. Aging wine in oak wine barrels provides the wine with aromas that would typically be found on your spice rack – nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, vanilla and clove to name a few. And as it passes over your tongue, hints of caramel, mocha, butter and toffee are just a few that come forward.

Oak Wine Barrels or Stainless Steel Wine Drums?

... a liquid stored in oak will experience some degree of evaporation. This natural process contributes to the concentration of the wine (much like the way chefs “reduce” a sauce on the stovetop to intensify it) with respect to both aroma and flavor

To add in addition to the article, a new trend among (American) wineries is aging the wine in barrels that previously held liquor. This means that the barrels have absorbed the flavor of the liquor held in it previously, and add extra flavor to the wine as it ages in the reused barrel. Some popular combinations would be:

  • Cabernet Sauvignon/Zinfandel/Red Blend aged in Bourbon/Whiskey barrels
  • Chardonnay aged in Rum barrels

Notice how red wines are more so aged in old whiskey/bourbon barrels, as the wineries are looking to add more spice notes (sharper notes on the tongue) whereas the chardonnay (white wine) is aged in a rum barrel to get more of an oak note with a slight fruitiness to it.

Old bourbon/whiskey barrels will have sharper, stronger notes (more spice than oak) whereas the rum barrels have more mild, sweeter notes (lots of oak with a hint sweetness from the rum)

  • all of this add up to the advantages of wooden barrels but i want the disadvantages of steel barrels. to get the flavour, now wineries add oak chips and powders to steel drums to get that flavour, so its not an issue anymore – Ram Raj May 16 at 7:55
  • The advantages I listed were disadvantages of the steel drums. Oak chips and powders do not get the same flavor, I've made my own liquor attempting to use a steel barrel over an oak barrel using this same technique, and the flavors were completely off. Never again will I repeat that. I could only guess based off personal experience that wine would be no different. The second quote I listed (not allowing evaporation) is another disadvantage of the steel barrels. – Mercifies May 16 at 14:18
  • As listed in the article, even the origin of the oak wood will change the taste notes of the wine. American oak has very different flavoring than french oak, and neither flavor can be replicated using chips and powder. You can try it yourself, just not with wine (open wine won't last long enough). Put half liquor in an oak or wood container, half in a glass/steel container. Fill the glass/steel with oak chips and let it soak for a few months. There will be a noticeable difference in flavor, and not in the good way. – Mercifies May 16 at 14:21
  • Another way to look at it: Liquor/wine in oak barrels vs beer in steel kegs. Beer doesn't rely on the natural aging that wine/liquor benefit from with oak barrels. When you ferment beer, you do so in steel vats (or plastic/glass at home) for ~ 2 weeks then bottle it for another 3-4 weeks (not reliant on extra notes). Liquor and wine age in oak barrels for months or years (depending on brand). That's why 21 yr/old scotch is expensive: it's been aging in oak barrels for 21 years absorbing the flavor. This process cannot be substituted with oak chips or powder – Mercifies May 16 at 14:27
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What are the disadvantages of storing and transporting wine in steel barrels?

Well there that stainless steel wine drums are durable, impart no external flavours to the Wine, are easier to clean and are more green (no need to use oak trees to make barrels).

First of all, stainless steel wine drums are durable. They can be used over and over, year after year. The life of an oak barrel is between two and three years, depending on many factors. This means that oak trees must be harvested regularly, stripping our forests. And wine is highly acidic, and that acid tends to corrode the wood over time. So it makes economic sense for wineries to replace oak barrels with stainless steel. This economic advantage is important to winemakers because wineries use large quantities of barrels and using steel barrels allows them to reduce costs.

And using steel barrels provides another advantage as well. They impart no flavor into the wine, so they are perfect for experimenting with exact flavors. With oak barrels it is difficult to control the wine’s exposure to air, and this exposure can alter the flavor of the wine dramatically. Steel barrels allow much more control over flavors.

And there is one more factor to consider. Stainless steel barrels are much easier to clean than oak barrels. They have a very smooth surface inside, so cleaning them takes almost no time. Oak barrels tend to get scratched on the inside, and the wine seeps into those scratches and lingers long after the wine is removed. And this means that the flavor of the next wine to be stored in that barrel will be influenced by the remnants of the wine that was aged in that barrel previously. And this can interfere with both the flavor and the quality of the wine. And when you use steel barrels there are no woodnotes present, and the finish is crisp, fresh and light and the wine becomes more fruit forward (which is what many people prefer.)

When all is said and done, every wine, whether aged in oak or stainless steel, has its own elite group of followers. And for the consumer it is a win-win situation because they have the option of enjoying wines created by both processes, depending on their mood. Wine created through both methods are easy to enjoy and appreciate. - The Great Debate – Oak Wine Barrels or Stainless Steel Wine Drums?

Thus if your after that added oak flavour, stainless steel drums are not the best.

Aging wine in oak wine barrels provides the wine with aromas that would typically be found on your spice rack – nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, vanilla and clove to name a few. And as it passes over your tongue, hints of caramel, mocha, butter and toffee are just a few that come forward. - The Great Debate – Oak Wine Barrels or Stainless Steel Wine Drums?

The following can not be achieved in Stainless steel Drums:

Wood (and specifically oak) is a fundamentally porous material by nature, and that means a liquid stored in oak will experience some degree of evaporation. This natural process contributes to the concentration of the wine (much like the way chefs “reduce” a sauce on the stovetop to intensify it) with respect to both aroma and flavor. And then there are even more factors, such as where the trees were grown and how the wood was dried. All of these variables contribute to the results with fuller and richer complexity and impressions that can only be achieved with fermenting and aging wine in oak barrels. - The Great Debate – Oak Wine Barrels or Stainless Steel Wine Drums?

Aging wine in barrels may be better for some wines:

Depending on the type of wine, aging isn’t a factor. Particular white wines don’t age well and shouldn’t be stored in oak barrels. Red wines that contain various hints of spice, on the other hand, are usually aged for sometimes years at a time in oak barrels. - Oak vs. Stainless Steel Barrels, Which One’s Better?

One of the wineries near here (British Columbia) uses both (oak barrels and stainless steel drums) in their wine making. They incorporate a small of berries (blackberries, raspberries etc.) into the process of their wines in order the enhance the taste of the wine. The number of their stainless drums far outnumbers the their oak barrels.

Further reading:

Wine barrels: French or American oak? Stainless steel or cement? Does it matter?

3 Wine Barrel Trends You Need to Know About

Oak Wine Barrels or Stainless Steel Wine Drums?

Oak Wine Barrels or Stainless Steel Wine Drums?

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To highlight the disadvantage of steel you have to look at the alternatives. Of course you have wood, but wood imparts a lot of flavor, it's used for a different reason than steel containers. A better comparison is concrete.

Concrete fermentation and storage tanks started becoming popular in California around 2013, but they've been around forever. It's easy to cast it into different shapes which can create movement of the liquid in the tank, changing the mouthfeel of the wine. This happens becuase there is sediment at the bottom of a wine tank, the movement lifts the sedement and increases the wine's interaction with it. Concrete can also 'breathe', allowing oxygen to interact with the wine. These things can help to improve the quality of the wine. When you put wine in a steel barrel, that's it... the wine is done evolving.

Honestly, concrete also looks nicer. There's a fairly large tourist industry around wine. Steel tanks at a vinyard aren't as beautiful or interesting to tourists as wood or these big concrete eggs. That supposed lack of beauty changes the customers perception of the product, which makes a difference in how they enjoy and talk about the wine. There are disadvantages to concrete of course, amongst other things it's difficult to clean and it's heavy. I'm not saying that concrete is better than steel, it's just different. But, the reason that some people use it over steel, or in conjunction with steel, should point to supposed disadvantages of steel.

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