I was listening to the latest Sip, Sip, Hooray! podcast and was intrigued when the two Mary’s talked about a new invention that was introduced at the Vinitech show in Bordeaux in Nov. 2018: a wooden sphere wine barrel.
What Is a Wooden Sphere Wine Barrel?
It’s essentially a wine barrel in the shape of a giant sphere. It was invented by the French company, Seguin Moreau, who gave it the name GalileOak.
Normal wine barrels hold 60 gallons of wine and cost between $1,500 and $2,000. This new wooden sphere holds 400 gallons of wine and costs $57,000. Wow!
Why Is a Wooden Sphere Wine Barrel so Cool?
For starters, it’s beautiful. Beyond its beauty, it rotates. According to Nicolas Mälher-Besse, “For white wines, the rotary system puts the lees back into suspension. For red wines, it is suitable for cold pre-fermentation maceration, gentle punching down and rotating de-vatting.*”
They haven’t yet tested the GalileOak on red wine, But they are confident that it will work.
How Does a Wooden Sphere Compare to a Concrete Egg?
Let’s start with a brief discussion of concrete. Wine Enthusiast tells us that “The ancient practice of fermenting and aging wine in concrete… fell out of serious fashion. But with a sense of rediscovery, California winemakers—along with a slew of producers around the world—are embracing the tradition and claim it’s helping them to make better wine.”
Now for the egg. Decanter explains, “The egg shape gives a continuous flow to the wine as it ferments and ages, which allows a more homogenous liquid. The thick walls provide good insulation and temperature is very stable during fermentation, which avoids the need for artificial refrigeration.”
Seguin Moreau strongly believes that their sphere is the best shape for wine. Benoît Verdier, director of oenological development at Seguin Moreau, pronounces, “It is not the egg, but the sphere that has the most natural shape for thermally insulating and promoting the convection of wine.”
Wouldn’t it be great to do a side-by-side tasting of wine from a GalileOak, wine from a concrete egg and wine from a standard wine barrel? I’m guessing we’re a few years away from being able to do that.
If you know anything about the GalileOak, please share what you know with us. Thanks. Cheers!
Also known as délestage, the oxidative winemaking process in which, after the cap of grape musts, skins, seeds and stems forms on the top of a vat of fermenting wine, the wine is drained through a valve at the base of the tank into another vat and reserved while the remaining solids are allowed to drain for a few hours. The reserved wine is then pumped back into the original tank over the top of the drained skins, seeds and stems. Like punch downs and pump overs, the purpose of devatting is to increase the extraction of color, flavor, tannins and aromas from the solids, as well as aerate the fermenting wine.