On the homestretch and talk about a winter warmer! It is cold outside (we assume… this is written in advance) and we just want to be wrapped in a blanket of oak and silky fruit!
All About Oak
Types of Oak
Below, is a list of different countries and the main types of oak that they use. In general, Quercus petraea and Quercus Robur are thought of as European oak species. Quercus Robur has a tighter wood grain than Quercus Robur. These are types of white oak.
French oak (Quercus petraea)
Where is it harvested? From the following French forests: Allier, Limousin, Nevers, Tronçais and Vosges. These were originally planted to supply wood for ship building.
Smells and tastes like: Warm spice, Vanilla, Crème brûlée
Why is it used? French oak has a tighter grain and does not influence the final wine as much as American oak. Considered the gold standard for most wine regions.
Famous wines that use this type of oak: Bordeaux, Rhone Valley, Napa Valley
American oak (Quercus alba)
Where is it harvested? Missouri and the Appalachia region
Smells and tastes like: Coconut, Dill, Vanilla
Why is it used? American oak became popular in Spain because it was less expensive than French oak and gave the wines a distinct flavor profile. Top producers in the Ribera del Duero and Rioja region that still use American oak will likely have American oak staves shipped to them and have a cooper employed to build the barrels locally.
Famous regions that use this type of oak: Rioja, Napa Valley, Australia
Slavonian Oak (Quercus petraea or Quercus Robur)
Where is it harvested? Northeastern Croatia in Slavonia
Smells and tastes like: Warm spices, caramel
Why is it used? The grain of this oak is less fine than French oak, so some producers will use larger barrels to impart less aromas and flavors on the wine. Remember: surface area of oak to wine matters when it comes to oak maturation! There is less oxygen transfer when using Slavonian oak, which makes it highly desirable for wines that have a long maturation period.
Famous regions that use this type of oak: Veneto, Tuscany, and Piedmont… so all of the heavy hitters of Italy: Amarone, Chianti Classico + Brunello, and Barolo.
When does a barrel become “neutral”?
Most agree that a barrel becomes neutral after 4 years of use. Neutral barrels will not impart flavors or aromas in the wine but it may aid in textural development.