the great debate continues stainless steel or oak?
Clubs of America | Feb 12, 2015
The use of stainless steel and oak containers for fermentation and maturation is not just a matter of finances, though it’s a factor to be dealt with for sure. Two hundred 49-gallon oak casks (having a total capacity of 9,900 gallons) costs between four and ten times the cost of a single 9,900 gallon stainless steel vat. And after two years of higher labor costs to operate and maintain the oak barrels, the volume of wine produced in the oak is about 10% less due to evaporation. And then the barrels need to be replaced.
Perhaps the most important element is that the two materials produce opposing effects on the wine, so the choice is mostly this: Does the winemaker want to keep his product’s purity intact, or does he want to add character to his wine?
Stainless steel vats are long-lasting and easy to maintain, ideally suited to all forms of temperature control. They produce the freshest of wines with the purest varietal character. The oak cask, on the other hand, has a comparatively limited lifespan and is a headache to clean and nearly impossible to sterilize. Additionally, it’s difficult to control the temperatures, and the oxidation/evaporation which provide flavor concentration, are problematic.
Putting aside the aforementioned “problems,” I will attempt to explain my affinity for oak barrel processed wines.
Vanillin, the essential aromatic constituent of vanilla pods, is extracted from the oak by the process of oxidation. With the many wood lactones and unfermentable sugars present, the result is a distinctive, sweet and creamy vanilla nuance that becomes a part of the wine within. This oaky character goes on to mimic smoky complexity when allowed to further ferment in contact with the wood. The flavors continues to intensify and become even more complex and better integrated if the wine undergoes all or most of its fermentation in oak casks.
Cautiously handled and diligently nurtured, an oaked wine delights all my senses with its warmth and character to a higher level than many wines housed in cold stainless steel. In spite of the additional manhours and expense of using oak barrels, I must cast my vote for oak.
EMILIO MORO — FINCA RESALSO (Vintage 2013, Red) Country: Spain Region: Ribera Del Duero DO Grape: Tinto Fino (aka Tempranillo)
The Ribera Del Duero DO was established on July 21, 1982, located on the northern plateau of Spain. The region follows the course of the Duero River until it finally empties into the Atlantic Ocean. With moderate to low rainfall, extreme temperatures and more than 2,400 hours of annual sunlight, wine has been produced there for thousands of years, likely brought there by Benedictine Monks in the 12th century.
The Bodegas Emilio Moro is a family-owned winery with over 120 years of winemaking history. The family owns 173 acres of vineyards located on several parcels. The average age of their vines is 10 to 25 years, and the vineyards are located at high altitudes on the banks of the Duero River.
The winery works with a pure clone of the Tinto Fino transplanted from their earliest vines. The Tinto Fino (the local name for Tempranillo) used in this bright cherry red w/violet tones wine selection is from vines up to 12 years old. After manipulation and fermentation, the carefully selected fruit is aged in American and French barrels; later stabilized and gently filtered prior to bottling. It boasts aromas of mulberry, licorice and black forest fruits. It’s medium bodied with sweet ripe tannins, great structure, length, acidity and finish. Enjoy it now, at room temps (or cellar properly through 2018), with roast lamb, beef goulash, coq au vin.
Emilio Moro Finca Resalso:
TINTO FINO (aka TEMPRANILLO) GRAPES — Spain’s black “noble grape,” it ripens several weeks ahead of other Spanish reds. Used in blends, it makes exceptional long-lived wines of quality and complexity, and lends wonderful bouquet, color and acidity. Bottled singularly, it produces rich, flavorful wines of excellent longevity, good acidity with wonderfully long, lingering finishes.
MINU PUNTO ARGENTO — PROSECCO EXTRA DRY DOC TREVISO (Vintage 2013, White) Country: Italy Region: Treviso Grape: Glera
With very steep hills and a southern exposure, the municipality of Valdobbiadene is the prime area to grow and bottle Glera, also known as Prosecco, the lone ingredient grape is in this wine selection. The vineyard acreage where this grape is grown enjoys ample sunshine, is well-drained, and ventilated by the gentle breezes from the Adriatic Sea.
Most Proseccos (Glera wines) are non-vintage wines. This allows the winemaker to produce a consistent product year after year. This Prosecco is made from only the choicest fruit of the 2013 vintage. The fresh, fruity flavor of this particular selection from Punto Argento is due in large part to fermentation in steel tanks instead of in the bottle, thus preserving the raw grape flavor.
Straw-like yellow in color, the bouquet is floral and fruity with hints of pears, apples and citrus. The flavor is elegant, crisp, and fruity with excellent balance between softness and acidity. This is the wine to celebrate your evening meal highlighting fish of all descriptions, including shell fish. Serve chilled (about 45°F) in fluted glasses. Excellent as an aperitif, as well.
Minu Punto Argento Prosecco Extra Dry:
GLERA — A white variety of Italian lineage, until 2009 it was mostly called Prosecco. Whatever it’s called, it is a rather neutral grape used mainly for sparkling Italian wines such as spumante. It is grown mainly in Italy. Glera is an old varietal, with its former name, Prosecco, derived from the village of Prosecco where it is thought to have originated. (Some believe it was first cultivated by the Romans, and praised by Pliny the Elder of ancient times.) Italy, home to some 2,000 grape varieties, ranks the Glera grape rather close to the top, thirtieth in importance.
MACCHIALUPA — CAMPANIA AGLIANICO IGT (Vintage 2009, Red) Country: Italy Region: Campania Grape: Aglianico
Campania is in the south of Italy, on the Tyrrhenian Sea. The name is Latin for “happy land.” This region is one of Italy’s oldest wine regions, dating back to the 12th century BC. Like many Italian regions, it is home to an impressive array of grapes, some found nowhere else on Earth. Two friends, Esposito and Valentino, collaborated and founded the small estate, located in the hills of the Sabato River Valley, in 2001. The vines are an average age of 15 years old.
Made of 100% Aglianico grown in the Taurasi DOCG zone, it is aged for less than the requirement so it is classified as an IGT. Because the vintners feel their style contains fewer additives that the legal allowed under organic certification, they are NOT certified organic.
Deep garnet in the glass, this is a very concentrated, firmly structured wine, especially in its youth. It does, however, have great aging potential. With its rich nose with notes of figs, stewed plum, cedar and dried blueberries, it is luscious in the mouth with dark fruit flavors matched by firm acid and oak tannins. Serve with tubular pasta with meat sauce, mushroom ragout and aged cheeses.
Macchialupa Campania Aglianico:
AGLIANICO — This grape variety was brought to southern Italy by Greek settlers. In fact, the name is a corruption of vitis hellenica, Latin for “Greek vine.” The prowess of this grape lies in its ability to delivery huge doses of dark fruit flavors well matched with firm acidity. Many people think this black grape shares many traits with the Barbera. It has been respected since ancient Roman times, when it produced the famed wine of Falernum. This big and balanced specimen grows exceptionally well in areas of volcanic rock.
BODEGA LA SOTERRAÑA — 77 VERDEJO (Vintage 2013, White) Country: Spain Region: Rueda Grapes: Verdejo and Viura
A region best known for its fine white wines based on the Verdejo grape, Rueda is a Spanish Denominación de Origen (DO) in Castile y León in northwestern Spain. The first evidence of wine production in the area dates to the 11th century. During the 18th century, the acreage under vines was greater than the present, and was exclusively planted with Verdejo grapes. Between 1890 and 1922, Phylloxera destroyed more than two-thirds of the vines. They were successfully revitalized by the grafting of louse resistant New World rootstock.
In 1980, Rueda was awarded its DO status. Bodega La Soterraña was established in 2006. The ultramodern facility boasts state-of-the-art equipment, while its 300 acres of prime vineyards are dedicated to the white grape varieties, including the Verdejo (making up 60% of this recipe) and the Viura (the other 40%).
Wondering about the “77” in the name? It refers to a local town that had 7 churches, 7 virgins, 7 fountains, etc. Wondering about this particular wine? It pours brilliant pale straw yellow, and greets you with intense aromas of white fruit (pears) combined with tropical lychee and pineapple, and gentle citrus. On the palate, it’s delightfully light and refreshing with good acidity and includes citrus fruit notes in the finish. It’s ready to enjoy now, chilled, with creamy soups, grilled fish, light pasta dishes and paella.
Bodega La Soterraña 77 Verdejo:
VERDEJO GRAPES — In many cases, the Verdejo grape is partnered with at least one other fruit in the winemaking process. With a history tied to the Phylloxera tragedy, the grape has come back strong and healthy from the brink of extinction. This is an intensely fragrant grape making light, fresh wines.
VIURA GRAPES — This demure addition to many blends is used to bolster freshness and fragrance. Reasonably acidic, it aids oxidation resistance.