April 2015 Issue of Wines & Vines

Specialty Tanks Encourage Oak Extraction

Suppliers offer more products, equipment and toasts for oak barrel alternatives

by Andrew Adams
The redesigned Flexcube works with BarriQ stave inserts

As the use of oak barrel alternative products becomes more popular, several companies are now offering specialized equipment to help winemakers easily and efficiently incorporate oak staves and chips into their wine programs.

Oak suppliers also continue to expand their product lines with new toasts and new barrel alternative products.


  • Tanks designed for aging and flavoring wine with oak barrel alternatives give winemakers more options.
  • Toasts can lend wine specific flavors or a more traditional oak impact.
  • Oak extraction tanks can provide a quick boost of oak flavor when needed.

At the 2015 Unified Wine & Grape Symposium in Sacramento, Calif., World Cooperage touted the new oak-extraction tank that it developed with Custom Metalcraft for the cooper’s Oak Solutions Group line of barrel alternatives. The extractor tank is a TranStore portable unit modified to withstand pressure of 14.7 psi.

Dr. David Llodrá, World Cooperage’s research and development director, said when chips or staves are suspended in wine, the extraction process proceeds to a certain point before essentially stopping. By running wine through an extraction tank, the oak and wine interface is constantly changing, and more flavor and aroma compounds are drawn from the oak. “It’s like mixing your tea,” Llodrá said.

The strengthened 350-gallon tank is designed to withstand the pressure of a large volume of wine getting pulled through, and it can hold 400 pounds of oak chips. Llodrá said the tank is designed for wine to flow from the tank with gravity and then get pumped out via the outlet valve. He added that a winery could connect several of the extractor tanks together or use one to provide a final boost of oak to hit a certain style before bottling.

Llodrá said optimal extraction depends on how much oak is in the tank and the flow rate of a pump, but he added that a typical application would be to run eight volumes of the tank through the extraction tank in a day.

Tanks for wine aging with staves
Australian supplier Flexcube went through an extensive, two-year redesign process to improve its signature cube aging tank, which the company’s managing director Peter Steer says is not a barrel alternative so much as a barrel in a different format.

The tank now features a dome-shaped lid that he said is easier to open and close while also providing a better seal. The cubes are available in 265-, 397- and 530-gallon capacities, providing a maximum 1,060 gallons of storage when stacked.

Flexcube partnered with a cooperage in Charentes, France, to create staves for the cube and also produce barrels under the Oak Masters Selection brand. Steer said the only difference between BarriQ staves and those used for barrels is that they are not bent and hooped. At the recent Wines & Vines Oak Conference held in Napa, Calif., on Feb. 11, Flexcube also unveiled its new BarriQ staves with ends milled similar to barrel staves. Flexcube offers single-forest origin barrel packs from the French Tronçais and Jupilles forests as well as French-American hybrid, American and Russian oak packs.

The Australian company Stakvat produces a 900-liter, stainless-steel tank that can be stacked and equipped with oxygen-permeable barriers slipped into two of the tank walls to provide varying oxygen-transmission rates for wine maturation.

The tank is designed to work with the firm’s line of Oakbak staves, which are produced using staves from worn-out old barrels. Decommissioned barrels are broken down into staves that are then stripped of any wine-saturated wood and re-toasted with an infrared heat system. The company claims it can produce 8 square meters, or more than 80 square feet of oak staves, from one 225-liter barrel.

American firm OVinti, which sells its products under the OVinti, Flextank Inc. and Flextank USA labels or trademarks, produces a range of polyethylene tanks for fermentation and aging wine. The company also sells the Wine Stix line of alternatives for use in its tanks.

Paso Robles, Calif.-based tank manufacturer Paso Robles Tank has developed a fermentation tank with a stainless steel “basket” that can be filled with oak chips and staves. “This is a new feature we’re adding to our product line,” said Scott Erwin, the company’s business-development and sales manager. “It serves as a simple way to work and manage oak staves in tanks (and) can be removed with a forklift without draining the tank.”

He said a cellar worker could probably remove the basket manually but would have to remove the oak products first. The basket has been designed to fit the company’s 20-inch manway gasket on the top of the tank.

New toasts, new alternatives
Seguin Moreau continues to expand its line of alternative products. At the 2014 Unified show, the cooper unveiled its Oenofirst product, which is a log of compressed chips designed for use during fermentation. Oenofirst is available with toasted and untoasted chips, and Marion Blanchet Ghiringhelli, the company’s oak barrel alternatives sales manager, said that in the United States about 85% of her orders are for the untoasted Oenofirst.

Oenofirst log
Seguin Moreau introduced the Oenofirst log in 2014.

At this year’s Unified, Seguin Moreau brought its new R02 and R03 oak chip blends. Ghiringhelli said the R02 is designed to enhance fruity aromas and build mouthfeel, while the R02 brings more sweetness and roundness to the wine. The chips have a recommended extraction time of one to four months after primary fermentation.

The chips come as a mix of French, American and Hungarian wood as well as varying toasts. “It’s a house recipe,” Ghiringhelli said. “We try to blend the optimal profiles for what we want to achieve.”

Pronektar, the barrel alternatives division of Tonnellerie Radoux, introduced a new stave called Nektar Exclusive. Thomas Bioulou, Pronektar’s lead enologist, said the new stave is intended for the long-term aging of quality wines. “Nektar Exlusive is the answer to the increasing demand of our customers who wish to set up highly qualitative aging for top-of-range wines made from grapes of vineyards prepared carefully,” he said.

The 17mm staves come in packs of 40 and provide for long and gradual extraction of the aromatic and flavor compounds of the wood to ensure an “elegant oak profile that’s always in respect of the fruit and varietal characters.”

Bioulou said the stave is available in two convection toasts, medium and medium-plus. Pronektar recommends 0.5 to 1.2 staves per hectoliter for white wines during primary fermentation as well as lees contact and 1 to 2.5 staves per hectoliter for reds from the start of malolactic fermentation through aging.

Creative Oak, the barrel alternatives company of Cork Supply USA, introduced two new toasts for its line of convection-toasted products that include barrel inserts, tank bags containing “squares” or “bricks” and tank staves. The new “extreme caramel” toast provides a “shot of pure caramel (and) gently browned raw sugar.” The other new flavors are “vanilla” and “extreme vanilla.”

Cork Supply USA global brand marketing manager Jonathan Jewell said the precise temperatures of the company’s convection ovens enable it to focus on and isolate particular aromas, giving winemakers products that can provide very specific flavor components to their wines.

The winemaking products division of BSG in Napa, Calif., offers the Toasted Oak line of chips. BSG’s sales manager Doug Manning said the company has introduced a “heavy fire” toast to its lineup of chips and staves.

Xtrachêne introduced two fire toasts for its Stick 22-90, which is the same width of a barrel stave to provide more balance and volume, as well as square shape to provide 40% more extraction, according to the manufacturer. The new “Terroir” toast is designed to provide “complexity and elegance” while also extending boosting the mouthfeel and finish of a wine.

Xtrachêne’s new “Quattro” toast combines a light convection oven toast that’s finished with fire to feature more “pastry” aroma notes of toffee and warm bread with smoky characteristics.

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Posted on 04.02.2015 - 16:31:09 PST
According to the manufacturer, the logs are made through compression and not with a binding agent.
Andrew Adams

Posted on 04.02.2015 - 07:31:46 PST
What is the bonding agent of the Pressed Oak Logs?