The world has existed with some form of wine stored in a vessel to age vino since biblical times – we’ve talked it about it the history of wine barrels in the past. The wood and eventually oak wine barrel has been around for 20 or so centuries and this past century, it became almost an art.
The ease of moving wine or any food product in a barrel was also of help. However, with wines popularity and the fact that some wines like whites, don’t necessarily need oak, steel and even concrete vats have been used for storing and aging wine. Using oak chips to impart aromas and flavor has become part of the aging process as well. But oak may not be needed anymore. Egads!
Technology may eliminate the need for the oaking process, when researchers in Spain found using aromatised yeast brought similar influences without oak itself. Yeast is what makes grape juice into wine.
Now breaking the long history of winemaking is slow and sometimes even an impossible breach. Yet, these same scientist from the University of Madrid have been able to offer up this new procedure without the long waiting times that wine takes to age. This might sound blasphemous to stalwart vintners and wine experts, but the fact remains, this breakthrough gives winemakers the potential to infuse a vast many other flavors and smells that invariably could explode the range of wines that might be produced.
This revelation is huge and although more research will be needed to back up these claims, it’s obvious that this science of yeast imparting a taste difference, is only going to grow. As a homebrewer, I understand the value that yeast brings to the table when making beer. So to contemplate how a yeast cell can be infused with other flavors, which in-turn makes changes to the process of winemaking, is definitely a game-changer.
Whether this slows down or ultimately replaces the need for oak wine barrels, remains to be seen. A new barrel can easily run a $1,000 and they’re only good for half-a-dozen years or so. You can see why this may be the start of big changes in the wine industry.
Barrels be gone?
With the international growth of wine consumption, oenology departments all over the world are probably working on research towards this same goal of yeast replacing oak barrels. Too be sure, research in the wine industry is far from agreeable. In fact, to get anyone in the world of vino to agree on absolutes, well, there are no absolutes in this industry.
So, is this inevitably going to happen? Hard to say, but my money is on a slow change, typical in the world of winemaking. Hopefully I’ll be gone or too old to be concerned about such changes. In the meantime, there will always be wine, regardless – Salute!
Source: University of Madrid
Daryle W. Hier