Did you know that, among all the wines bottled in the world, only 5% have gone through a wooden barrel? First, because not all types of wine are suitable and then it all depends on the taste, texture and structure you want to give the wine.
Why aging in oak barrels?
First of all, you should know that aging in a wooden barrel brings tannins to the wine, which in turn give it body and structure. The tannins easily communicate bitterness and astringency to the wine (that dry feeling when you drink a wine) and, give the wine good aging potential.
WHAT ARE TANNINS?
Tannins are molecules found in the skin, seeds and stems of grapes. They are found in red wines – because during the development of these, the skin, seeds (and sometimes the stems) are left to macerate for a certain period of time with the must, thus adding tannins to the wine. wine. For white wines, the production is very different!
As the tannins are present in the wood, they are found in wines that have passed through wooden barrels. The level of tannins is thus controlled according to the time spent in the barrel, but also according to the type and age of the wooden barrel.
The tannins are odorless and tasteless … but you can feel them in the mouth! They easily impart bitterness and astringency to wine. Tannins also add body and structure to the wine. Everything is a game of balance when making the wine: the winemaker must extract enough tannins to obtain a good structure, while avoiding having too much dominance on bitterness and astringency.
At what stage is the wine placed in wooden barrels?
Generally (because there are always exceptions!), The harvested grapes are quickly put into vats (very often in stainless steel) for the fermentation stage. And, after the yeasts have transformed the sugar in the grapes into alcohol, the liquid is left to stand for a while. This resting stage is: breeding. It is at this stage that some wines will be put into barrels.
The type of wood used
In almost all cases, oak is used. There are a multitude of varieties of oak (almost 250!), But these are only a few species that are used for aging wine.
The most popular are pedunculate oak, sod oak (both from Europe), and white oak from North America. Each one has its own characteristics and the winemaker will choose the “right” barrel according to the desired result.
CHow long does the wine spend in oak barrels?
The time spent in oak barrels can range from six months to several years, depending on the producer. Depending on the grape variety, the type of wine and above all according to the taste desired by the winemaker, he will decide the number of months that the wine must remain in barrels.
The more a barrel is used, the more it loses its properties, but again, it all depends on the winemaker’s wish for his wine.
A matter of taste!
In addition to the tannins, the oak barrel brings secondary aromas (including fresh wood) which will vary according to the type of wood, grape variety and the time spent in the barrel!
It’s all a matter of taste!