Oak has traditionally played a major role in the production of wine, especially before the invention of cement and stainless-steel tanks. Oak barrels may have been created by Northern Europeans around 300BC. Barrels were used for storage purposes, shipping of dry goods, weapons, and liquids; and continued to be used for centuries. At some point in the oak barrel history, winemakers began to take notice of the effects that the barrel aging process had on wine.
Oak barrels offer 3 major attributes to wine:
1. Enhance flavor compounds
2. Allow the slow ingress of oxygen
3. Provide an optimal environment for certain metabolic reactions to occur.
Depending on the type of oak, size of barrel and aging process oak can add textural qualities or flavor elements to a wine.
When wine is aged in oak, the oak slowly imparts its natural flavor into the wine. If it’s a white wine, the longer it sits in oak the darker yellow it will become. Possibly giving it a smooth, buttery, toffee like taste. A red wine sitting in oak may become darker, the longer it sits in an oak barrel; sealing in a nutty, earthy richness.
American oak gives off notes of vanilla, coconut, dill and sweet spices. This oak is ideal for bolder more structured wines, such as Zinfandel, Rioja and Cabernet Sauvignon. European Oak, specifically French Oak, may result in notes of hazelnut, dark chocolate, roasted coffee. This oak is ideal for lighter wines that require subtlety such as Pinot Noir, lighter Cabernet Sauvignon, and Chardonnay. Both Merlot and Syrah react synonymously with American and French.
At Mayhew we offer a wide variety of oaked and un-oaked wines from around the world. Pay us a visit and check out our October Wine of the Month, La Garnacha Salvaje del Moncayo, priced at $13.00. This wine sees 5 months of aging in new French oak barrels and possesses fruity, fresh and sweet tannin, capable of satisfying the enthusiasts of this variety. For its roundness and youth, this wine presents a nice surprise!