Oakwood: The cradle of great wines

This wine is aged 24 months in oak barrels” “Aged for 12 months in American oak barrels and 12 months in bottle” These are phrases we’ve all heard at some point, but what is the true meaning of wine aging in wood? What are the differences between French oak and American oak? Just these countries generate suitable timber for wine aging? I will try to address these questions through this post. However, before talking about the different woods that make up the barrel and the qualities that these woods provide the wine, I want to make a small point about how we qualify wines in Spain in terms of time spent in barrel: wooden barrel
* Breeding: These are wines that should remain at least 24 months at rest before leaving the warehouse, of which at least 6 must be in oak.
* Reservation: At least 36 months at rest, of which at least 12 must be in oak.
* Gran Reserva: At least 60 months at rest, 24 of them spent in barrel.
Once we have this clear, we can deepen the types of barrels and timbers used for aging wine, but why is so imporant wood in the aging of wine?
The oak plays important roles in the aging of wine. First flavors and aromas that provides much richer wines, such as vanilla, toast, caramel or coffee, unobtainable without contact with the wood. Furthermore evolution helps wine, thanks microoxygenation controlling the oxygen which is filtered through the pores of the wood (oxidative phase) and which comes into contact with the wine.
What are the types of oak barrels used to draw?
* American oak (Quercus Alba): The American oak is the hardest of those used for making barrels, which makes it virtually waterproof. Very little wood is wasted, getting produce an average of 10 barrels per cubic meter of wood. In addition, American oak barrels are cheaper, with a price that is around 250 €. The pores of the American oak are considerably larger than those of French oak. For this reason, the wood properties are transmitted to the wine much more quickly and sharply. American oak contributes less tannins to the wine, but a wider variety of flavors and faster than French oak. It is particularly suitable to reduce the astringency and hardness of the wines in record time.
* French oak barrel (Quercus Petraea): The French oak is synonymous with elegance in the wines, so it is normally used for the breeding of the best wines from each winery. This type of oak is much softer in parts than American oak, so much more wood is wasted, getting about 6 barrels per cubic meter of wood. The French oak pore is much thinner than American oak, transmitting their qualities in a more leisurely and balanced. The characteristic aromas transferred to French oak wine are, honey, vanilla and spices among others. The price of a French oak barrel can triple that of American oak barrels, reaching around 600 €.
Importantly generic qualities discussed above, may be altered depending on aspects such as the level of darkness that have been subjected to the woods or the age of the barrel.
There are other species of oak used for aging wine, but its use is very small compared with the two previously mentioned. In the near future publish a post dedicated exclusively to these other woods.

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