Why Age Wine in Oak Barrels
Before there were glass bottles (1600’s and before), most wines were stored and sold in wooden barrels. In fact, paintings from around this time period often show wine barrels strewn about. And, while we’ve outgrown the necessity for barrels to store and transport wine, we’ve come to acquire a taste for it. Oak barrels are an integral part of modern wine making.
Here are just some reasons we age wine in Barrels:
- It adds flavour compounds and aromas such as Vanilla, Clove, smoke and coconut
- It allows the slow ingress of oxygen, a process which makes wines taste smoother and less astringent
- It also adds tannins
- It provides a suitable environment for certain metabolic reactions to occur, this makes the wine taste creamier
Oak has become the accepted way to affect the taste of wine; these oak flavors are either of a single Slovenian barrel in the 2000+-liter size or in the case of a Barberra wine it is now modern practice to age 50% in Slovenian oak and 50% in Barriques for a minimum of one year.
The size of the barrel of course has a great influence on the final taste of the wine, the larger the barrel the less lactones and oxygen are imparted into a wine.
Different kinds of oak used for wine making
There are 2 primary species preferred for winemaking: Quercus Alba or American white oak and Quercus petrea or European white oak. Each species offers slightly different flavor profiles. Additionally, the climate where the oak grows also affects flavors. So for example, wines aged in Quercus petrea from Allier, France will taste different from wines aged in Quercus petrea from the Zemplen Mountains forest in Hungary.
- European Oak Found in France, Hungary, Slavonia (Croatia)
- American Oak Found in Missouri and the Midwest
This very large Slovenian oak barrel was put together onsite
Large Slovenian barrels in the cellars of Piemonte
Slovenian oak barrels used now French Oak Barrel
“All this talking about barrels and wine flavors has made me crave for a good Barbaresco”
Enjoy wine with a friend