Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Wine Storage Vessels from Antiquity to Present

Over the centuries, the vessels used in wine preservation have greatly changed. These changes have lead from the days of producing wine that had to be consumed locally and quickly, to a time where wine can be enjoyed by the glass decades after it was placed into its storage container. Through ingenuity, common-sense and perseverance, the wine trade has been able to take the grape to the consumer in many ways over the years. Illustrated here, will be the path the wine storage vessel took from the days of wine's supposed inception to today's modern wine drinker.

The original storage containers are purported to be nothing more than basic jars that would hold the wine, but would leave it exposed to the elements. These vessels were found in what we know now to be the Middle East. History shows us, that some of these jars would have possibly been covered with rags or some other cover and sealed with resin to help keep oxygen out. The jars being porous as well as a poor seal, caused the wines to go back quickly. The jar styled vessels found in Egypt from the time of the great pyramids had the beginnings of what was to lead to the modern wine label, denoting vital information on its production region, quality and producer.

Wine trades next innovation in the storage vessel would be the amphora. This vessel used heavily by the Greeks and Romans in trade, especially on merchant ships. This vessel was a large pottery vessel with a point on the bottom. The point was on the bottom in order to place it into a specific holder used to keep the amphora up rite. These vessels however, were very similar to the clay jars, in the fact that they were highly porous and were sealed much in the same manner, with wax or resin covering a cap. Inside often a layer of olive oil would be placed on the wine in an attempt to keep as much oxygen away from the wine as possible.

In Europe, the wine barrel started to become a highly used storage vessel during and after the medieval period. Numerous methods were attempted to assist in the preservation in the wooden barrels, such as the addition of sulfur, sealing the barrels with resin and fortification. Madeira eventually became a wine that was purposely exposed to high temperatures, as this helped stabilize the wine, a precursor to pasteurization. People also liked the addition of the "estufa" process as well as the fortification process. They created a desired flavor in the wine, which is still enjoyed to this day. The barrels themselves however, for the majority of wines gave a poor seal as with the prior containers. This meant that wine still had to be consumed at a fairly young age, lest the wine turn to vinegar before being consumed.

What we know as the wine bottle, did not come into being until fairly recently in the history of the wine trade. The first bottles were hand-blown, somewhat fragile and mostly used for filling from the barrel for immediate consumption at the table or elsewhere. The creation of the modern elongated bottle came into being in the eighteenth century. This bottle could be stacked on its side and sealed with the Portuguese discovered cork. Storing the bottle on its side meant the cork stayed moist and was the best way of keeping oxygen out of the bottle which also meant finally that the wine could be stored for many years, even decades in the case of some well made Bordeaux, so that they could mature to their best flavors.

The seal itself for the bottle has undergone some recent innovation in hopes to make a better seal as well as better avoid some of the issues using a "natural" product sometimes brings to the wine in the way of mold and "cork taint". The new seals range from synthetic corks made of plastic composites; these corks are suspected to impart a chemical taste to the wine however. Screw caps are also widely becoming popular, which is acknowledged to be the best seal possible. A recent innovation called the zork, is an addition to the screw cap, made of plastic, it creates a popping noise when removed to mimic the lost pop noise made from the cork. The vino-seal is another cork substitute used rarely, that is a glass plus with a rubber ring on it to create a seal. Although this product creates a perfect seal, it is highly expensive in its production price as well as its need to be manually placed on the bottle in the production line at the winery. The final innovation comes from the sparkling wine industry and is the crown cap. The same item used on a beer bottle, gives a perfect seal on the wine bottle as well. This seal is limited in use to the sparkling wine industry, and is most often seen in proseco from Italy.

The final innovation in wine storage originates from the mass produced wines in Australia and eventually the United States. The "bag-in-the-box" concept places a sealed plastic bag inside a cardboard box. On one side of the bag is a pour spout, which pulls through a hole on one side of the box. This container gives the most perfect seal for the wine, and best yet gives the ability to have glass after glass, without having to reseal a bottle which has come into contact with oxygen. The boxes also have a square shape, which makes them perfect for packaging and delivering as there is no wasted space. People fear the aesthetics of this container, however in recent years; producers of finer wines in California as well as France and Italy have been using these boxes. Unlike the large boxes used for what is known as "jug" wines, these higher end products contain the equivalent of two to three bottles of "fine" wine. The low cost of these containers also translates to a largely reduced retail price to the consumer as well. One of the only noted disadvantages of this storage container is that the bag is gas-porous. Although the wine does not come in contact directly with oxygen, the wine will eventually deteriorate in the bag with age.

The wine storage vessel has come a long way from the days of clay jars. Before the age of the barrel, wine had to be consumed within a year. The barrel added a slight amount of time to that limit, but the bottle was truly the ingenuity that brought modern wine drinking and trade to its present status. Now with even more innovation in sealing bottles, we can be sure that what is in the bottle is as good as it was when it went into the bottle. These innovations in preservation methods have helped the wine trade burst out of it prior local markets, and made it become a multi-national cross hemisphere industry for the whole world to share.

Currently listening :
By New Order
Release date: 06 December, 2005

No comments:

Free Blog CounterHandelshaus ...