Barrels: Why And How White Oak Barrels Improve Wine

white oak barrelsThe Origin of Barrels for Wine Storage

Most individuals have been to museums where ancient relics, specimens, and relics have been recovered that date back to the Greek-Roman era. It has been documented in historical records that wooden buckets having straight sides were used in Egypt dating back to 2690 BCE, which predates the Christian era. The process of going from clay pots to white oak barrels is interesting, indeed.

Why and how do White Oak Barrels improve Wine Taste?

The first fully closed wooden barrel came along between 800-900 BCE (Iron Age). Before the 1st century, their use was widespread for the purpose of holding beer, wine, olive oil, milk, and water. As transportation improved and trade developed, merchants discovered the fact that these sealed wooden vessels were a great improvement to the fragility of clay vessels. Thus, the craft of barrel making known as cooperage was launched and grew quickly as merchant trading routes increased.

One of the biggest advantages is the rounded shape of white oak barrels gave them strength and allowed them to be rolled along from one place to another. Another unexpected benefit of storing certain products in these containers was the marked improvement that was noticed in many of the beverages that were stored in them. In addition to the strength of barrels and their portability, there was one more discovery made regarding wooden barrels that has kept coopering alive and well in the 21st century. This is the reason for white oak barrels.

The Beauty of Barrels

If white oak barrels hadn’t been used for wine storage throughout the early years of their creation, no one would have discovered that wine that was stored in white oak barrels had a better and more enjoyable taste than wine stored another way.

Without making the explanation too difficult to understand, it comes down to the understanding that wood happens to be a reactive material. Simply put, that means that wood will chemically react with certain ingredients that are stored in it. Non-reactive containers, such as aluminum, do not interact with material stored within, so it does not change its chemistry or its taste. The wood interacts with wine and it actually causes a formation of rich, complex texture and flavor in the beverage.  As it turns out, oak is the wood, almost exclusively, that has the most beneficial effect on alcohol storage.

The first change that takes place in white oak barrels is a controlled amount of oxidation in the storage of red wine. This aging introduces a gradual oxidation process that reduces astringency and improves stability and color. It also develops the fruit bouquet of the beverage as well. As barrels are stored, a specific amount of oxygen is added to the white oak barrels, producing great benefits over the months.

Secondly, oak wood is made up of complex compounded chemicals, which end up transferring tastes and flavors to the white and red wines during storage.

The main emphasis of this article is for the purpose of reminding you of the importance of wine and alcohol storage in white oak barrels. Though it involves complex chemistry that takes place over months and months of storage in wooden white oak barrels, it ends up greatly increasing our appreciation and enjoyment of a finely stored wine. The type of white oak barrels, the method of white oak barrels assembly, and the temperatures and manufacturing process all put their unique mark on their stored beverage. With all of these variations and factors to consider when coopers create their very specialized containers, it is easy to realize that white oak barrels are not a craft for the amateur!