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Princess and The Bear



 The Princess and The Bear
May 11, 2019 | The Princess and The Bear

Wine Aging 101: Oak, Steel or Clay?

An innovative, yet ancient, wine aging method uses clay amphorae


As we've traveled the Languedoc-Roussillon in search of extraordinary winemakers, we've learned what it takes to create delicious, affordable, award-winning wines. (Reminder: our wine club is the easiest way for you to experience our discoveries).

When it comes to wine aging or "cellaring," both tradition and innovation are important. 

The main materials used for wine aging vessels are concrete, stainless steel, and wood. Each material has unique properties which influence the wine.


Different types of aging vessels at the cave of one of our new winemakers, 
Séverine Bourrier of Chateau de L’Ou. 


Stainless steel is completely hermetic (airtight). And while this risks reducing the wine during winemaking, the airtight environment preserves flavors.Stainless steel is often used for young wines with good fruit-expression.

Wood and concrete have a higher porosity and permit micro-oxygenation, which enhances the wine's development. Roundness and mouthfeel are preserved with both of these materials.



We can all conjure up the romantic image of wine aging in wooden casks. But among some winemakers, wood, particularly oak, is a controversial material! 

Both US and French winemakers use oak vessels for aging. But because of local farming practices, French oak grows more slowly than American oak. The result is a less porous wood that imparts a subtle oak complexity and "lifts" existing flavors. 

By contrast, oak-aged American wines have been called "dominant" and "aggressive" by French winemakers. The battle rages on!

Another approach to aging involves the amphora, an ancient shape used by the Romans for both aging and storage. The Romans used clay, but modern winemakers also use ceramic and wood. 

The shape of the amphora is as important as the material. Before aging, the shape encourages circulation during fermentation which helps gently extract the flavors and some tannins from the grapes.


Suggestion of how wine amphorae may have been stacked on an ancient galley. 
By Ad Meskens - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0 


This summer the Princess and the Bear will welcome two wonderful new winemakers who use amphorae: Séverine Bourrier of Château de L’Ou and Stephane Yerle of Vila Voltaire.  Stay tuned for their beautiful wines!




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