If yes, how did it turn out? How did it smell/taste?
Doing one right now, smells and tastes fine, but really too early to tell as it just went dry. An experiment for us as we had some extra fruit this year.
Thanks for the response. Looking forward to hearing how this turns out. Im going to try and make some this fall.
We’ve got a guy here in central NC who is making reds with no oak, and they are very, very interesting wines:
If I ever make reds, they will have zero oak.
I’ve done this…Pinot that stayed in a 15 gallon Keg the entire time until bottling (intended for topping, but never got used for that) and another that stayed in a glass carboy the entire time. I compared it to the same wine that was in a neutral (6 year old) barrel…the wine in barrel was better. I’m not sure I see the benefits of steel vs neutral oak here other than it can be hard to find really old barrels that you trust are clean. But the zero air contact of steel affects the development of reds in a way that doesn’t seem like a positive to me.
There are some plastic wine storage containers on the market now that claim to give the same amount of air exposure that barrels give. I’d wonder how inert the plastic really is tho.
Still, neutral oak would be my pick for a no oak red.
Thanks. If possible, could you be more specific about what the aromatic/taste/body differences were?
Wes Hagen poured me a stainless steel Clos Pepe Pinot (2001? 2002?) at Pinot Days. He said it was because he ran out of barrels. It actually wasn’t bad, but it did lack the complexity and range that only oak can offer.
I have had several wines made and aged in stainless- not Pinot, though. Neil Collins does a Zin all in stainless. When I was in school we did a red and a white carbonic maceration all in stainless. As far as all of these are concerned, think Beaujolais nouveau. Very fruity, but as mentioned above, not as complex. Even neutral oak will change a wine from what it is without oak. For my tastes (and I don’t like a lot of oak), I think stainless lends itself more to crisp whits, unless simple and fruity is what you are going for.
I used one of those breathing flex tanks this year and while they may breathe they definitely don’t breathe as well as a barrel. I had wine from the same lot in neutral oak, the wine in the flex tank had a touch of reduction while the barreled wine was clean. Once ml was complete I racked the wine from the flextank to neutral wood, the wine cleaned up nicely.
I probalby should have done a tank to tank racking so I could keep the experiment going…
My thought is that you just may need to move the wine more if you are using tanks, be them ss or plastic. Or us micro oxygenation.
This was my initial thought… why not do a little micro-ox?
My (random/rambling) observations:
One of the interesting/challenging aspects of Pinot in barrel…all wine in barrel I suppose, but esp Pinot it seems, esp balanced Pinots…is how variable it is from one week (or two or month) to another in how it shows. Usually one flavor aspect of the wine will open up and be more apparent, and another aspect of the wine will close up (my interpretation of what’s happening). Or sometimes it will be mostly closed down. I take this as a part of the wine’s development. I’ve cut back on the amount of barrel tasting that I do…cuz it just causes me to worry about it. The wine in kegs don’t seem to evolve/change much and stayed in a more closed state. Which I take as a sign that either A) it’s not evolving (if so, I assume it’s gotten to such a reductive state that its development is blocked) or B) it’s developing much much more slowly than the neutral barrel version. Anyways, when the wine was bottled, the wine in keg has been fairly unevolved and somewhat closed…i.e. it smelled and tasted like a muted version of when it when it was pressed (except without all the malic acid). The body was thinner compared to the neutral barrel version. I’m guessing that’s due to the wines lack of (or slower) development while in keg (given that the neutral barrels where 6+ years old, it’s not going to be due to oak phenolics getting into the wine). The keg wine was ‘fresher’, but in a more raw/unintegrated sort of way.
Obviously there’s a big difference between option A and B (above)…if it’s option B, then perhaps this is a way to, in the long term, develop more complexity in the wine (in the same way that bread that rises very slowly is, or is claimed to be, better than bread that rises quickly)? I’m a bit skeptical of this tho because (the following is my understanding of oxygen vs sulfur reactions in a young wine): when a wine is very young, i.e. during elevage, complex chemical reactions occur that require (or, would prefer) an oxygen molecule to participate. If the wine is in a very reductive state (i.e. no oxygen is present) then a sulfur molecule can take the place of the oxygen. This is one way that ‘off sulfur’ compounds get created (off sulfur is a bit of a misnomer…cuz, for example, the truffle smell you get im some burgs is created this way). Or perhaps the reaction doesn’t occur at all (perhaps something else completely different occurs). At any rate, when a wine is very young, tiny amounts of oxygen is an important element in the wine’s development…and my concern about keeping the wine in stainless steel is that either you’re just blocking the wines development, or sending it down a dangerous path. The couple of times I’ve had wine in kegs for an extended period…the wines haven’t developed anything majorly stinky but they did develop some celery/fennel notes to them. It wasn’t unappealing but it didn’t seem typical of the wine. It blew off with some air and time, so it wasn’t a problem. But I assume it would have developed into asparagus (or other) if left untended.
Micro-ox is a solution. But precise micro-ox equipment isn’t cheap. And even then, I’d wonder about the dispersion of the oxygen in the wine with a micro-ox (compared to a barrel). I know that the oxygen absorbed by the wine at the top of the barrel doesn’t disperse on it’s own at all (the oxidized wine stays at the top). Take a jar of apple juice (in a clear glass jar), stick some yeast in it, when the juice is finished fermenting leave the top off the jar…eventually the fermented apple juice will start to oxidize. You’ll be able to see it cuz it’ll be a brown layer at the top of the jar. The longer you leave it, the thicker the oxidized layer will become…but there will always be a sharp line between the brown oxidised stuff and the ‘normal looking’ stuff.
Racking the wine occasionally is an option as well (either racking the wine entirely, or siphoning a bit out and returning it). But that will give the wine a lot of oxygen at once…rather than a steady amount of oxygen (in tiny quantities).
Not that racking or micro-ox are bad options, but doesn’t seem like they’re as desirable as barrels
When I’ve done micro-ox in the past, I used a bottle of food grade O2 and a small diffuser (called a ‘stone’ - not sure why/if this is correct). It seemed to me to be pretty uniform in effectiveness – and would stirring after help at all?