Oak Maturation of wine
11 May 2012 by Leilani Sell
It is understood by most wine drinkers and "lovers of the heavenly sap",
that some wines are wooded. Mostly red wines and some white wines.
It is also understood that wine is put into wooded barrels to achieve this wooded effect, but most people do not know that there are wood alternatives that can achieve remarkably similar, if not the same, results.
Wine making is a romantic and artistic profession, and the wood is ultimately where you want to spend your money, to make sure you are making a wine that is going to age well and also, of course, taste fantastic!
So how do winemakers choose what wood to use for what wine? Let us start with origin.
Most of France has insidious oak forests, and additional large plantations were planted for the ship industry. These natural forests stretched from the colder north, right down to the warmer southern areas. The colder climates in the north produce more dense oak and the warmer south producers more open grain oak.
For the ship building industry the oak had to be cured for a minimum period of two years as this was the time needed for the oak, at the thickness they used, about 35mm, to shrink and stabilize. The curing of oak thus also originates from the boat building industry. This curing and stabilization is therefore also necessary when barrels are manufactured to prevent excessive shrinkage after the barrel had been assembled. The use of barrels date back to 63 BC as shown on the stone bas-relief of the “Caesar stone”
Four main Oak producing areas in France are:
Centre of France - Nevers, Allier and Troncais (Troncais a specific forest within Allier) close grained oak light in density
Limousin - open grained and more dens that Centre of France- used for Cognac (and California Chardonnay?)
Burgundy areas – all around Burgundy area. Similar to Centre of France – close grained and light in density
Vosge – close grained and similar to Centre of France.
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