The Traditionally, Oak & Wine Forever Married!
Oak & Wine is like peanut butter & jelly! It is one of the biggest influences on the flavor of the wine. It simply affects the maturity, flavor, and subtle texture. Some people are prejudiced against oaked wine and complain of even the slightest hint of oak. It is common for experts to agree that if a wine is =carefully aged in oak it does not taste like wood, but has improved characteristics.
Aging using Oak
Oak aging occurs when the wine has been aged in oak casks so that the flavor of the surrounding wood infuses some of its woodiness into the liquid. The resulting wine will usually taste richer, with creamy vanilla undertones and sometimes a little woody or even sawdusty. The oak is a type of seasoning for wine and getting the optimum level of flavor is vital. Oak aging usually takes place in small oak barrels that hold 225 liters. being replaced every two or three years as newer barrels give the best flavor.
Is Oak Aging the Best?
Oak is considered to be the most ideal wood for this aging. It not only has superb watertight qualities but gives the right sort of flavors, aromas, and textures to enhance the wine. There are different types of oak that offer certain distinctive flavorings. The most commonly used is the tightly-grained French oak which gives a subtle hint of oakiness. American oak gives a more obvious vanilla character to the wine.
Wines that are more powerful in flavor tend to be stored in American oak. Some additional factors that allow oak aging to affect a wine’s taste are the size of the barrels, the age of the wood used, the time the wine spends within the cask, and whether the barrels have been toasted (i.e. lightly burned on the inside).
Continuing Wine Aging Trends
Now the fashion is for lightly oaked wines and winemakers are producing more subtle elegant flavors. Traditionally, red wines are aged in oak to add extra body, richness, and tannins.
The soft light reds such as Beaujolais are typically unoaked, but the richer more powerful styles such as fine red Bordeaux or Californian Cabernet Sauvignon are almost always aged in oak. Similarly, Rioja is oak aged for a long time to give it a distinct mellow creaminess.
Port and Madeira are wood-aged and have a hint of oak, and even some Champagnes are aged for a short time in oak barrels, although they never taste very oaky, just a bit more full-bodied. Some premium sweet white wines are also oak aged.
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