The Flexcube story

Our latest MSP wine will be launched soon thanks to our chief winemaker, Sándor Mérész who is constantly looking for new challenges. A new project, another new experiment, another exciting result that is worth reporting on.

The next MSP wine named Fumé from the 2018 vintage is now the seventh item of our experimental series, an exciting 100% Sauvignon blanc project. Fumé is a perfect example of how notes reminiscent of oak barrel aging can be present in a wine without it having spent a single minute in the barrel during its 2 year long aging process.

This MSP wine was fermented in a steel tank, then matured there for 6 months, after it was replaced in a 1,000 liter Flexcube for another 6 months. In recent years Flexcube is a more and more familiar term for wine enthusiasts, mostly in connection with foreign wines, however we know relatively little about what exactly this tool is and what are its benefits in the life of a winery.

Flexcube or the new generation of barrels is an Australian patent that began its conquest in the early 2000s with the undisguised intention of providing a more sustainable alternative to traditional barrel aging. Currently more than 1,000 wineries use this equipment in 13 countries.

But how could a maturing pot made of polymer give barrel-like notes to a wine and that an artificial material could be more sustainable for our planet than oak or other wooden barrels?

Flexcube is made of a breathable polymeric material that can provide a continuous, controlled and consistent passive oxygen supply. The air permeability of traditional barrels is very heterogeneous which can be problematic for a winery when assembling a barrel blend. The Flexcube provides an accurate and controlled amount of oxygen inflow over its entire life-span which can be many times that of a conventional barrel.

A traditional barrel, even the highest quality ones can be used safely during 3-4 vintages without harmful microbiological processes occurring. This is quite simply because a natural material like wood can be kept less clean than a polymeric device.

We are done with the process of passive micro oxidation, however, this alone would be far from sufficient for secondary barrel aging notes to form in the wine. These characteristics are provided by high-quality barrel staves that can be hung into the Flexcube. The staves are made from the same wood, split by hand and matured in exactly the same way as the oak staves used for traditional barrels but instead of open-flame roasting, they are roasted using a heat-flow process which makes the result much more consistent. By its nature, open-flame roasting is less uniform, so it can cause serious differences between barrels with the same roasting grade or even within one single barrel.

By roasting the entire surface of the staves and fully contacting them with the wine in the container, a much smaller amount of wood is required to mature a given amount of wine than if this process took place in conventional oak barrels.

If we wanted to make the 1,000 liters of wine in oak barrels that we aged in the Flexcube instead, we would have needed twelve times the amount of actual wood. This decline of timber demand in a winery can result in a significant reduction of ecological footprint.

The staves used in the Flexcube just like the wood used as the material for traditional barrels, come from oak trees that are at least 100-200 years old. But immersing the staves into the wine, it interacts with the entire surface of the wood, so 100% of the oak is in use during the oenological process, while in the case of a conventional barrel, the wine is in contact with a part of the inner surface of the barrel with a thickness of just 3-5 mm, which is only 20% of the total oak material used. The remaining 80% of the century-old tree doesn’t come into contact with wine, so eventually it degrades into being just an air-permeable storage container.

Of course, we are not planning to eradicate traditional barrels from the line of equipment but as an innovative winery, we wholeheartedly welcome such progressive solutions and are happy to experiment with them.

As for the rest, we are sure that our Flexcube will still be aging some of our next exciting batches in line.