Friday, December 10, 2004

Square barrels?!

I’m trying to envision these in the cellars of North America, but I’m having difficulties in stepping away (mentally) from the traditional round barrels…
Cybox website images
Square Wine Barrels PR story

On the one hand, I want to be progressive, and see some positive aspects of this new shape:

  1. they could stack rather well and eliminate the need for racks to stack the barrels
  2. potential added stability to stacked barrels (VERY important in California’s wine/earthquake country)
  3. possible reduction in staff costs = potentially lower priced wines

The downside as I see it:

  1. less oxygen transfer to the wine (slower maturation)
  2. increased lees contact (surface area) which is not always desired
  3. possible cleaning problems
  4. the need to invest in new equipment
  5. dramatic loss of “romance” in the wine industry’s image (at least among those using barrels)
  6. square barrels can’t roll – so different handling’s required

The press story also states that -
“75 per cent of mid-size wineries in the US use barrel alternatives, commonly stainless steel tanks containing oak staves and with micro-oxidisation.”

– I find that statement to be on the rather high side, and the implication is that those wineries are using ONLY barrel alternatives without any barrels. I don’t think so…

On a related note, Brown-Forman has announced it will be closing it’s Mendocino Cooperage due to increasing trends toward barrel alternatives and an inability to strike a good business model. (Part of the problem may lie in the rather useless website for the cooperage…it tells you nothing about what products they offer, sizes, cost range, etc.)

I would speculate that the business model is the culprit for the closure as Mendocino Cooperage has distributed barrel alternatives for at least the last 4 years. They should’ve been able to see this coming and expanded that aspect of their business. If indeed the American wine industry HAD shifted 75% of it’s production into barrel alternatives, they should’ve been able to pick up plenty of revenue.


Post a Comment

<< Home