Oak has long been considered the ‘standard’ material for wine barrels, but time moves on, and with it, technology. Many wine innovators and smaller, independent winemakers are calling on their larger, older brethren to get with the times and embrace oak alternatives and stainless steel wine barrels.
This isn’t the first time the wine world has moved on and developed a new ‘standard’. As we learned in our History of Wine Transportation series, clay was the favored vessel for storing, transporting and fermenting wine for several hundred years. When the world began to leave behind the clay amphorae and embrace oak barrels, wine survived and thrived. In the last several decades, wine manufacturers explored packaging alternatives: bottles got screwcaps instead of the traditional cork, both bulk and personal sizes of boxed wines hit the shelves, and let us not forget those ubiquitous little plastic bulbs with single-glass sized servings. Change is inevitable and wonderful, so why fear stainless steel wine barrels?
It’s not as though stainless steel is new in the world of wine. Tanks and fermentors of every size and configuration have been available in stainless steel for several decades. Winemakers appreciate the control stainless steel tanks and fermentors give them over their product and stainless steel barrels were already the standard in other food and beverage industries. The move to standard sized stainless steel barrels was only logical. And yet, in the 25 or so years that stainless drums/barrels have been used in the wine industry, they only began reaching mass popularity in the last five years.
Ahead of the curve, Skolnik Industries began manufacturing stainless steel wine barrels nearly 20 years ago. A few wineries jumped on the innovation train and reached out to Skolnik specifically for quality, custom wine barrels. No matter the shape, size or fittings, stainless steel barrels have one great advantage over the oak original, and it is a gift that keeps on giving. Stainless steel wine barrels are more sustainable. They are easier to clean and reuse, they are not easily infested by wood and wine loving critters, and they aren’t made out of a dwindling resource. Stainless steel wine barrels are not new, but they are still the container for the future and it is time the entire wine industry (yes, even you, established, vintage wine giants) recognizes them as such.
Our wine partners trusted us to take the jump into stainless steel wine barrels with them decades ago, and we are happy to say that we never looked back.