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How Oak Barrels Affect The Taste of Wine

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A detailed peek right into why wine barrels are such an integral part of modern winemaking. Discover the different type of barrels that are made use of as well as exactly how they affect the wine.

Why do wines get aged in oak barrels?

Prior to there were glass bottles (1600’s as well as prior to), a lot of wines were stored as well as offered in wood barrels. As a matter of fact, paintings from around this time period usually show wine barrels scattered about. And, while we have actually outgrown the necessity for barrels to shop and also transport wine, we’ve involved getting a preference for it. Oak barrels are an integral component of modern winemaking (and whiskey as well!).

How Do Oak Barrels Help Wine?

Oak offers three major contributions to wine:

  1. It includes taste substances– consisting of aromas of vanilla, clove, smoke, and coconut.

  2. It allows the slow access of oxygen– a process which makes the wine preference smoother as well as much less astringent.

  3. It gives a suitable setting for certain metabolic responses to occur (particularly Malolactic Fermentation)– which makes wines taste creamier.

What Flavors Does it Add?

Unlike beer, wine does not allow flavor additives (i.e. coriander, orange peel, etc). Hence, oak has come to be the approved way to influence the preference of wine. When contributed to wine, oak tastes integrate with wine tastes to develop a wide array of new potential flavors.

  • furfural dried fruit burned almond, burnt sugar

  • guaiacol burn overtones

  • oak lactone woody, dill, and coconut notes

  • eugenol spices, cloves, and smoke character

  • vanilla vanilla

  • syringaldehyde vanilla-like

The Differences between New vs Used Oak and Aging

Much like tea, oak taste removal is minimized each time it’s used. You’ll also observe that aging durations vary depending upon the wine maker’s choice in addition to the sort of wine. Below are a couple of traditional aging regimen examples to compare:

  • Pinot Noir 10 months in used French oak barriques (Raen Winery)

  • California Chardonnay 13 months in ~50% new French oak barriques (Lynmar)

  • Bordeaux 12 months in 50% new French Oak barriques (Château Pontac-Lynch Margaux)

  • Zinfandel 17 months in 20% new French, American and Hungarian barriques (Carol Shelton)

  • Malbec 18 months in untoasted 3500-liter foudres (Altos Las Hormigas)

  • Brunello di Montalcino 24 months in large used 1000+ liter French and Slavonian Oak Botti (Uccelliera)

  • Gran Reserva Rioja 24 months in 40% American and 60% French Oak (Valserrano)

Different kinds of oak used for winemaking

There are 2 key species favored for winemaking: Quercus alba or American white oak and also Quercus Petrea or European white oak. Each type provides somewhat various flavor accounts. In addition, the environment where the oak grows additionally affects flavors. So as an example, wines aged in Quercus Petrea from Allier, France will certainly taste various from wines aged in Quercus Petrea from the Zemplen Hills forest in Hungary.Petrea

  • European Oak Found in France, Hungary, Slavonia (Croatia)

  • American Oak Found in Missouri and the Midwest

Difference between American and European (French) Oak

The major distinct physical difference between the wine oak species is its thickness. European oak has a tendency to be extra thick (closer spaced rings) which has been recommended to present much fewer oak lactones and oxygen than American oak. Normally talking, American oak is perfect for bolder, much more structured wines (Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah) that can deal with American oak’s robust tastes as well as oxygen access, whereas European oak is ideal for lighter wines (such as Pinot Noir or Chardonnay) that need even more nuance.

Other Woods Used to Age Wine

The wine has been aged in a variety of different wood species to varying degrees of success (imagine, for example, the wine aged in pine!). Several different species have been found to work well for aging wine:

  1. Chestnut Castanea sativa Offers more oxygen ingress, no oak lactone and increased guaiacol and vanillin

  2. Acacia Robinia pseudoacacia Possible increased oxygen ingress and no oak lactone

  3. Iberian Oak Quercus pyrenaica Offers more oxygen ingress and increased vanilla tones

  4. English Oak Quercus robur Similar to Quercus Petrea

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