Interesting article on Oak in winemaking

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Interesting article on Oak in winemaking

Postby Joshua London » Mon Aug 27, 2012 6:29 pm

Hi folks,
Not sure how active the Israeli and Kosher Wine Forum is these days (I've been very busy, and sort of drifted away again), but I thought I'd take another stab at posting something that might be of interest. See here: http://www.decanter.com/news/blogs/expert/530329/jefford-on-monday-tree-time for Andrew Jefford's Decanter blog post from Aug. 18th. Here's the lead:
Oak, particularly new French oak, is the most expensive container you can choose in which to age your new wines. We've all damned wines for being over-oaked. "This wine needs more oak," by contrast, is a comment I’ve never heard from anyone. The imbalance is striking. Is all that money being wasted?

I'd be interested in what folks here think.
All best,
Josh
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Re: Interesting article on Oak in winemaking

Postby Craig Winchell » Mon Aug 27, 2012 8:00 pm

A relatively unremarkable article, Josh. Oak is an important flavoring component in many types of wine, and an important micro-oxidative storage medium with many others. However, it is not the be-all and end-all in flavor or storage. Most white wines see no oak. In Chardonnay, a very neutral grape, it offers the promise of added complexity and depth, when used with a deft hand. It has seen use in other white varieties, but its use is in the minority. In almost all reds, however, oak is used for storage and or flavoring. Here again, deft use would largely preclude its making its identity known as a major flavor component. There is reason to use all types of currently available oak cooperage, depending upon the design of the wine by the winemaker, and/or price of oak or of finished wine.
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Re: Interesting article on Oak in winemaking

Postby Joshua London » Tue Aug 28, 2012 11:49 am

Craig Winchell wrote:A relatively unremarkable article...

Ah, sorry. :oops: Well, I did say "interesting" rather than "remarkable." I actually thought it was pretty good in terms of provoking thought amongst those of us who fancy ourselves (at least semi) knowledgeable critics/tasters. I particularly liked this:
"Working out that a wine is ‘under-oaked’, by contrast, is no easy matter. If I feel dissatisfied with such a wine, I will probably complain about something else altogether. An aggressive flavour profile, perhaps; the stinkiness of reduction; or an overall lack of harmony and equilibrium. It’s an impressive feat to imagine such a wine with another eight months in oak, or with 70 per cent rather than 20 per cent new oak, or with ten months in second-use oak rather than in concrete tanks."

Still, since no else commented, I guess even "interesting" was an oversell. No worries.
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Re: Interesting article on Oak in winemaking

Postby Yehoshua Werth » Tue Aug 28, 2012 2:02 pm

If my basic learning is correct the Tannins are also part of the show.. Some come from the wood thus with the chemical change in the wood the aging potential of the wine becomes more elegant and elongated. Thoughts.. Major flavor component of whiskey, wine, Rhum(not spelling error) and cognac.. Young versus old power vs. complexity. As a Mr Samaroli called it.. Finding the age that best suits the Liquid in the barrel is one of the Great things to reach for:)

Jacob..Thank you for stirring the pot with this article keep it coming :)
Yehoshua Werth, Manager
The GrapeVine Wines & Spirits
Monsey, NY USA
http://www.youtube.com/TheGrapevineWines
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Re: Interesting article on Oak in winemaking

Postby Elie Poltorak » Tue Aug 28, 2012 4:34 pm

While "working out" what a wine would be like with x number of additional months in a particular oak is indeed impressive, with the current backlash against heavy handed oak, it isn't unusual at all to see wines that obviously would've benefited from some additional time in the barrels. It doesn't take a genius to notice that. Case in point: on Friday I posted TNs on the Crown Heights Winery 2010 Chalk Hill CS complaining that it's under-oaked.
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Re: Interesting article on Oak in winemaking

Postby Pinchas L » Tue Aug 28, 2012 5:45 pm

Joshua London wrote:
Craig Winchell wrote:A relatively unremarkable article...

Ah, sorry. :oops: Well, I did say "interesting" rather than "remarkable." I actually thought it was pretty good in terms of provoking thought amongst those of us who fancy ourselves (at least semi) knowledgeable critics/tasters. I particularly liked this:
"Working out that a wine is ‘under-oaked’, by contrast, is no easy matter. If I feel dissatisfied with such a wine, I will probably complain about something else altogether. An aggressive flavour profile, perhaps; the stinkiness of reduction; or an overall lack of harmony and equilibrium. It’s an impressive feat to imagine such a wine with another eight months in oak, or with 70 per cent rather than 20 per cent new oak, or with ten months in second-use oak rather than in concrete tanks."

Still, since no else commented, I guess even "interesting" was an oversell. No worries.


Hi Josh,

Thanks for posting. Although I didn't find much meat in the article, it can serve to spawn a discussion on the topic. While oak's contribution to oxidation is subtle and imperceptible, its contribution being indirect, noticeable only in its effect on the finished product, when it is used as a flavor enhancer and as a mask, covering the flaws in a wine, its footprints can seem like those of a fossilized dinosaur. I tend not to like those wines, even though I understand the reason for the particular oak treatment, and perhaps precisely for the that very same reason. The author feels unsatisfied with under-oaked wines, but what I find in his complaints are references to flaws of a poorly made wine: reduction and imbalance, rather than valid reasons to feel unsatisfied with that style of wine-making. Then there are those monster wines with over-the-top fruit that the winemaker chooses to tame by using oak. Again, I understand the approach, but I prefer wines that are done differently. As a rule I prefer silky tannins and acid, to high alcohol and oak. From my experience, typically, high alcohol implies a later harvest, resulting in lower acidity. Which in turn, is remedied by covering that up with an aggressive oak treatment, consequently overpowering the silky tannins with those of the oak. However, I do understand that silky tannins are very much a function of the grape variety, as some varieties have thinner skins, imparting less tannins than their thicker skinned cousins.

As for the delay in commenting, my read-response cycle isn't on steroids.

Best,
-> Pinchas
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