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Role of Oak Barrels in Wine Making

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Posted by Adrian Fisher on June 11, 2011 at 12:53 am

The use of barrels for storing and aging of wine is a traditional method followed since several centuries. Especially barrels made of Oak are used for giving special flavors for wine. Aging in Oak barrels gives a typical taste to the wine which is similar to vanilla, butter and spice flavors. It also depends upon the size and shape of the barrels. The wood from the Oak trees is seasoned and prepared and later used for barrel construction.

The common types of oaks used in the construction of barrels are the French Oak and the American Oak. French Oak is considered as the best quality Oak used for making wine barrels from many years. French coopers used to let the wood air dry for at least 24 months to obtain perfect seasoning. They used to split the wood instead of sawing it to make staves. This process produced staves that had more subtle effects on the wine.

The second type of Oak would be the American oak wood, which was not successful in its earlier stages. In this type of barrels, the coopers used klin dry method to season the wood. The staves are sawed rather than splitting. This kind of process which is different from french Oak barrel construction didn’t give proper results. Later French barrel techniques were applied in the construction of American and other country barrels which improved the results. American oak based barrels are low in cost when compared to French barrels.

So, now a days barrels are constructed using both kinds of Oak, which show same results on the wine flavor. It is clear from the above statement that the quality of the wine does not depend on the difference in Oak woods but on the technique of seasoning the wood.

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1 Comment

  • On June 29, 2011 at 1:43 pm Bert said

    My first try at a cab was a disaster (I think I ended up with some cleaning solution/acid in my batch). Since that first attempt, I have found that it is both a science, and an art! My second batch was a success, and a good one if I don’t say so myself.
    Cheers!