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Oak vs. Stainless Steel Barrels, Which One’s Better?

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One of the most important aspects of winemaking is the aging process. Aging processes have come a long way as wine has almost always been aged in oak barrels, giving the wine the delicate tastes and aromas such as nutmeg, cedar, clove, and other various spices.

So, the question is… why might winemakers choose to use stainless steel barrels when winemaking over the ever-so-popular wooden barrels that create such exquisite flavors?

Well for starters, the wood harvested for oak barrels isn’t good for the environment and doesn’t last forever. The acid in the wine breaks down wood at a pretty fast pace, creating a need for more and more wood, whereas stainless steal barrels can be used over and over again for ages, not to mention the cleaning process for stainless steel is much quicker and easier.

For winemakers that have perfected their flavor, stainless steel barrels don’t alter the flavor of the wine at all, which is perfect for those not looking to add spice to their pallets (usually white and sweet 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.

The reasons for the differing processes are clear. If you’re into aged, spiced red wines you’re in good hands with oak barrels and if you love a buttery, crisp white you’d probably prefer a stainless steel barrel. So, the answer of which barrel is better is revealed. Either way, winemakers know what’s best for each type of wine and you can expect to enjoy the best of the best coming from either barrel!