Before the convenience and control of today’s stainless steel wine barrels, ancient civilizations found other ways to store and transport their precious wine. By the middle ages, wooden barrels were the standard method of bulk wine transport. Tuns, as they were called, held 950 liters of wine and were pretty unwieldy for land transportation.
But wine still had a relatively short shelf life. Within a year oxidization would turn wine into vinegar. When it was discovered that wines with higher alcohol levels could survive longer, merchants started adding brandy to wine bound for a longer trip. This also led to the creation and popularity of Port, Sherry and Madeira.
Wine storage and transportation technology was not advanced enough to control oxidation. But, advances in glass making had finally made smaller vessels and more manageable home storage a reality. In the seventeenth century, the glass bottle and cork stopper hits the scene. The use of wine bottles was still not common in the nineteenth century. In some cases it was illegal to sell wine by the bottle, in others you were at the mercy of the merchants who would transfer wine from barrels to bottles, often exposing it to oxygen and potentially ruining the product.
Glass bottles only reached popularity because of their enhanced suitability for long-term storage and aging.
As we continue to develop new technologies to store and transport wine — Australia’s plastic bladders, iso-tanks, bags-in-boxes, Tetra Paks, wine kegs and stainless steel wine barrels — one guiding truth stands out: we are a people passionate about wine and thus efficient wine storage and transportation is a puzzle worth solving.
At Skolnik, we favor stainless steel wine barrels. How do you BYOB?