Mar 24 2012
Remember the word association game we played as children? So if I now said “barrel”, the word that most likely pops into your head is “wine”, even if you had been a teetotaler! To the much more initiated, it’s the association of red wine and oak barrels. Here’s an insight in to the finer particulars.
Going into the history of winemaking, oak barrels were utilised as mere containers for red wine, because the tight-grained wood ensured that leakage was minimal. Nobody knows when and where, however it was ultimately realized that the barrel was working wonders for the drink. Naturally, the results varied with the sort of oak.
Most in the world’s high quality oak wood comes from France and North America, in that order. The French variant is tight-grained and subtly enhances the aroma and taste from the red wine with all the spiciness of cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, allspice and only a hint of vanilla. American oak grains are wider and add a bolder flavor of vanilla, coconut and from time to time butter inside the wine’s profile.
Oak is often a porous wood; the red wine stored inside such a barrel will probably be exposed to a little quantity of air, without having in fact leaking out. Oxygen softens the tannins from the oak, producing it really feel lighter on the palate. The water component evaporates more than time, plus the quantity stored inside the barrel reduces by virtually 8.5%, leaving a red wine using a heightened smell, taste clarity and also a deepened color.
You can find numerous variables in matching the category of red wine to the oak barrel: the region the fruit came from and the climate in the time from the batch), the age in the oak, the length of its seasoning, the degree of toasting, the vintner’s decision to utilize the oak barrel for fermentation or aging, to name a number of.
To acquire the rounded barrel, staves (cut pieces of oak) are joined and fire-heated. This treating in the oak wood is named “toasting” and chars the inside surface in the barrel, creating the contained red wine subtly smoky. Not absolutely everyone prefers their wine to be oaked; the fans of such “naked” wine are typically laymen, whereas expert wine-tasters and wine-makers really like their oak-soaked bottle of red wine.
Actually, they would favor a wine bottled racked from a barrel of new oak. The oak wood tends to lose its qualities with each use, and will possess a reduced impact on the red wine. Older barrels may perhaps also harbor yeast and bacteria, which will ruin your wine. Top-class winemakers only use new oak barrels each and every time, and sell them off immediately after a year, at a less costly rate, to the smaller-scale producers.
Of late, cloth-wrapped oak chips and vertically placed oak staves are gaining reputation. Their smaller size as compared to the barrel staves means far more oak touching the liquid inside, thereby speeding up the effect on the wine. However, it also implies a lower grade of red wine; a trade-off between cost and top quality.
Now you understand the secret behind the very best red wine. Next time you take a sip and flatter your senses, remember all the very good operate that has gone into its producing, and raise your glass to say ‘Long live the wine-making tradition’!