Oak Barrel Aging…

Posted By admin on Jul 29, 2014 in Wine Club |

Oak Barrel Aging…


Hi There…

You know that the majority of fine wines are
aged in oak barrels… But why? What are the
advantages? Are there different types of oak?
What do these differences mean?

Aging Wine Before It is Bottled…

After fermentation is completed and wine is
racked several times to remove the largest
solids, the young wine is usually rough, raw
and green and needs to settle for a period
of time.

This aging can be done in neutral containers
such as stainless steel, cement lined vats,
old large casks, etc. or it can be done in
small relatively new wood barrels which are
not neutral, but which will influence the
developing wine.

Oak Barrel Influence – the Basics…

Subtle flavors are imparted to wine as it ages
in the barrel. Different types of oak (French
and American being the two most widely used)
from different regions (Limousin, Nevers,
Troncais, etc.) give differing levels of flavor
to the wine (most often described as vanilla).

The effect of specific wood on different wines
is the subject of great discussion and
experimentation among wine makers throughout
the world.

Wine, as it rests in the barrel, goes through
subtle chemical changes, resulting in greater
complexity and a softening of the harsh tannins
and flavors present at the end of fermentation.

A barrel essentially does two things: it allows
a very slow introduction of oxygen into the
wine, and it imparts the character of the wood
into the wine. (This diminishes, as a barrel
gets older.

You usually get 50% of the extract that a barrel
has on the first use, 25% the second and less
after that.)

The quality of wood is examined. Through taste,
wine connoisseurs discovered that quercus robur,
European oak, yielded texturally more refined
and smooth wines. The search led them to a few
forests in France, which have since acquired
worldwide fame.

They are: Limousine, Troncais, Nevers, Allier,
Jupille. The first two impart an overwhelming
vanilla flavour to wines and are mostly used
by cognac manufacturers.

White wines may be fermented in barrels to
extract tannins in an attempt to render the end
product cellar worthy. Most white wine is not
meant to benefit from barrel fermentation
and/or aging.

Barrel aging benefits red wines more than white
wines and most winemakers use this technique
for their better quality products like Cabernet
Sauvignon, Meritage, Chianti Classico, Brunello
di Montalcino, Bordeaux blends, Shiraz and
blends thereof, Rioja wines and Ribera del Duero.

Light wine grapes like Gamay for Beaujolais are
often not barrel aged. Some barrel manufacturers
now incorporate staves from different countries
in one barrel and the results are reportedly

In the USA, the white oak (querqus alba) is
abundant and used in barrel manufacturing.

Brad Caskey
Durango Liquor & Wine

1145 S Camino Del Rio # 101 (next to Walmart)
Durango, CO 81303

(970) 259-4900