Many of us are unaware that the majority of fine wines are stored or aged in barrels made of oak. The reason for this is less well known. What are the advantages of oak? Are there disadvantages? Does oak barrel come in different varieties? Is there any major thing it does to the wine? How does the whole process work?
Once the wine fermentation process is accomplished, wine is frequently racked to eliminate any larger solid particles. This young wine is usually ‘green.’ At this stage, it’s still raw and rough. It needs time to age gradually in vessels or containers that are comprised of inert materials. Old casks, stainless steel, or cement vats are often used for this. On the other hand, unoaked wine can originally be aged in little wooded barrels. These above-listed containers are not neutral because they tend to affect the wine as it ages.
Oak Aging Wine
As wine ages in wooden barrels, fine flavours from the oak gradually begin to influence its development. American, European, or French oak are some types of wine barrels normally used. Oak barrels are manufactured from staves. These are long pieces of oak wood fitted firmly together with metals made of hoops. The barrels are roasted over a fire to achieve either a light, medium, or dark toast level. Wine experts believe that barrels that are new with a light toast most likely will give lots of caramel and vanilla notes, while a darker toast will produce a roasted smokey, aromas.
These barrels are obtained from different regions to impart somewhat different flavours and also affects how long to age wine in oak barrels. As the wine rests inside the barrel, chemical changes begin to react to the wine. The outcome is the softening of the harsh tannins existing in the fermentation process and a more intricate flavor. The different effect of a particular wood is always a captivating subject when discussed by winemakers. The barrel serves two purposes for the aging wine: it allows entrance of oxygen gently into the wine over time and conveys some of the character, or flavour of the wood into the wine. A brand-new barrel with oak chips for wine is always the best for this, and the outcome reduces gradually with repeated use.
The Difference between Stainless Steel and Oak Barrel Aged Wines.
The core difference between stainless steel and oak-aged wines is the presence or absence of oak flavours and aromas. Some grapes respond better to the various aging regimens. Chardonnay (neutral grapes), which lacks much aroma, will often be aged in oak to for more complexity. Stainless steel aging is more suitable for Riesling which is an aromatic grape whose characteristic aromas would vanish under the flavors of oak aging.
An additional difference between stainless steel aged wine and oak barrel-aged wine is the price. Stainless steel aging is considerably less expensive than using oak because unlike oak barrels, steel barrels can be used again forever and are much stress-free to clean. Using a stainless steel aging also takes less time when compared to oak aging, which saves winemakers an essential space in the wine cellar. In conclusion, these outlined factors mean that wines made through stainless steel are expected to be less expensive for the consumer.