Barriques and large wooden barrels refine the wine at Tenuta Vallocai in TuscanyBarriques and large wooden barrels refine the wine at Tenuta Vallocai in Tuscany

In wooden barrels (oxidative) or in stainless steel tanks (reductive)

Flavour-neutral stainless steel tanks, or oxidative ageing in wooden barrels or clay amphorae – the decision is up to the winemaker

Before stainless steel tanks, all wines were fermented in wooden barrels. So it’s nothing new that winemakers today are increasingly ageing their wines in wooden barrels. 225-litre barriques are particularly popular for this purpose. These are small barrels made from new oak, which not only act as fermentation containers but also have a substantial effect on the development of the wine. This is because wood, unlike stainless steel, is air-permeable and lets the grape juice breathe. This is also true for clay amphorae, one of the world’s oldest wine containers. If wine comes into contact with oxygen, this is considered oxidative ageing.

Most white wines lose their freshness when stored in wood for long periods, and they become «tired». The same is certainly not true for red wine: the oxygen that permeates the barrel walls has little effect on the red juice. What does affect it is how large the wooden barrel is: small containers offer wine more contact area with the wood than larger ones. This gives the wine more intense wood notes.

When wine is stored without any contact with oxygen, for example in a stainless steel tank, this is considered reductive ageing.

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