Even the wine makers who have not seen the light that is the stainless steel wine barrel make use of our “alternative” vessels for topping off.
Topping off a wine barrel refers to adding wine to a barrel to make up for the wine that has evaporated. Oak barrels aren’t completely airtight, so evaporation is inevitable. It’s been reported that up to 5% of a wine’s production can disappear in the angel’s share, leaving you with one tipsy angel and significantly less wine to sell.
Additionally, when wine evaporates, it creates extra air space in the barrel, also known as ullage. Too much ullage can increase the risk of bacteria and the speed of oxidization. Most wine experts aren’t particularly keen on overly oxidized wines as they tend to be less vibrant and aromatic. In fact, left unchecked, oxidization will eventually turn a wine into vinegar. Thus, winemakers will ‘top off’ their barrels to avoid any unwanted or excessive oxidization.
That’s where 55 gallon stainless steel wine barrels come in. Winemakers typically set aside some of the same wine or a similar wine that they can blend into an oak barrel batch when the angel’s get a little too thirsty. Winemakers might top off their barrels every couple of days or every couple of weeks. Either way, they need a hefty supply of product available to do so. And where do they keep that wine? More often than not wine for topping off is coming from an air-tight, angel-proof stainless steel wine barrel, like the ones we manufacture here at Skolnik.