Stainless steel tanks are used in variety of tasks in Virginia winemaking. Most wines will be fermented in these tanks prior to being moved into barrel. If the wine is not moved into oak, the wine is often referred to as “Steel” aged. Tanks vary in size from 250 gallons to up to 200,000 gallons
They can be quite large, and are often over 20 feet tall. Stainless steel tanks used to ferment white wine are generally taller and skinnier than those used to ferment red wine. The taller the tank is in relation to its width, the easier it is for the winemaker to control the temperature of the fermentation.
Stainless steel is completely neutral in the winemaking process. If winemakers wish to impart oak flavors they may use oak chips in the tank.
In very general terms, stainless steel wine tends to be more fruit forward with a brief finish while oak aged wine tends to have a muted attack and longer (often buttery) finish.