Almost everyone has heard the phrases “I love barrels” or “um, it feels oaky.” More than that, everyone adores pickle barrels snacks. Let’s figure out what gives a barrel to wine, how to recognize oak in the glass and oak wine on the store shelf.
Why wine needs a barrel
Wine is aged in a barrel to make it more harmonious, fuller, and to add interesting things to the taste and aroma. For reds, this is often a matter of necessity; you need to tame their acidity and tartness. In the cask, the red softens, becomes pleasantly weighty, and acquires notes of chocolate and coffee, tobacco, dried fruit, toasted toast, and various spices.
For whites, barrel aging is a matter of style, and they are aged much less frequently, mostly with chardonnay. Aging adds density, butteriness, and new notes to whites: cream, baking, nuts, vanilla, and other spices.
Pros and cons of barrel wine
Strictly speaking, oak barrel aging is a style that can be treated differently. It was ultra-popular about thirty years ago. Back then critics and people unanimously adored barrel-aged wines for their weightiness, opulence, and richness. Nowadays tastes are different, everything elegant and natural is in fashion. That’s why fresh, unoaked wines, also called naked wines, are in demand.
Good things about barrel-aged wine:
- Tasty notes of vanilla, coffee, and buns that aren’t present in naked wines;
- Dense, velvety texture;
- Warming effect;
- The ability to evolve and get better over time – an unopened bottle can be kept for years.
What you may not like:
- Occasionally, underwhelmed by density and more notes – when you want lightness or just from being unaccustomed to it.
- You should often let the wine breathe before you drink it – cask wine is not good if you’re not willing to wait.
- A good bottle costs more than two thousand rubles, just a decent one – from a thousand. Barrel at the winery is an expensive pleasure. Cheaper wine, unless it’s a super-sale, is likely to be infused on oak sawdust. It tastes primitively woody.
What the barrel gives to the wine
The barrel and all its density-spiciness can be felt in the wine in different ways: sometimes it’s delicate, sometimes it’s really kicky. Both are the norm, they are just two different styles and approaches to oak. There are a few things that affect how much the barrel will be felt.
The length of time the wine has been aged. The longer in the barrel, the stronger the oak effect. Aging periods range from three months to several years. Expensive wines are usually aged for years. Barrels for whiskey are a little different, keep this in mind.
The age of the barrel. A new one has a stronger effect on the taste, especially if it is just after firing-imagine how all that smokiness goes into the wine. But usually, for aging, you take barrels that have already served. On average, they “live” for 5-7 years and give less and less of themselves to the wine over the years.
Cask size. The smaller it is, the more it charges the oak. A classic of the genre is a 225-liter French barrique. With this volume, the ratio of “oak” area to the amount of wine in the barrel is perfect. But there are other types of barrels: Chablis is kept in small 132-liter ones, and in Australia, they use bigger ones, 300 and even 450-500 liters.
Type of oak. American oak is more aromatic than French oak. It makes wines expressive and slightly sweet, which is why it is valued by New World winemakers. French oak is popular in Europe and makes quiet, neat wines with good tartness. And there is also Caucasian oak, which is used in our country, it is similar to French oak, but its tartness is brighter. You can find all of these wooden barrels for sale online.