Oak Barrels Can Have An Intense Effect On Wine
Oak barrels have an absorbent nature and permit some oxygenation and evaporation to take place in wine. Usually this is not at levels that can cause spoilage or oxidation of wine. In a year, evaporation can cause barrels which hold 59 gallons of wine to lose from 5½ to 6½ gallons of wine by evaporation. The evaporation which is mainly water and alcohol lets the wine concentrate its aroma and flavor compounds. Tiny quantities of oxygen are permitted to pass through the barrel in order to act as an agent to soften up the tannins in the wine.
Chemical properties of oak barrels can have an intense consequence on the wine. Surrounded by the phenols in the wood, the wine can interact to create vanilla type flavors which offer the sensation of sweetness or tea notes. The extent of “toast” on the oak can furthermore pass on special properties that affect the tannin intensity of the wine in addition to the forceful wood flavors. Hydrolyzable tannins that are found in wood and recognized as ellagitannins, result from lignin structures in the wood. These assist in protecting the wine from reduction and oxidation.
Wines can be fermented in oak barrels or placed in them after fermentation for a phase of aging. Wine aged in oak takes delivery of more oak flavors and properties than wine which has been fermented in oak. The reason for this is because yeast cells interrelate and fasten on to oak components. When dead yeast cells are taken as lees from the wine, some oak properties go, also. A pale extra silky white wine is fermented in oak barrels. White wines normally have a pale color and silky-smooth texture. Fermenting white wines in steel and then aging them in oak causes them to have a dark color. This is because of the heavy phenolic compounds that remain present. Caramel, vanilla, smoke, spice and cream are flavor notes of wines which have been stored in oak. Chardonnay is a selection that offers exceedingly distinctive flavor profiles when fermented in barrels containing cloves, cinnamon and coconut. According to the “toastiness” of the oak, red wine can have different degrees of toffee and mocha notes and can bring out different degrees of toffee and mocha notes in red wine.
Oak flavoring in wine occurs greatest in the early months when the wine is initially in contact with the oak barrels. However a longer period of contact can change the wine by the light exposure to air that the oak barrels permit. This assists in precipitating the phenolic compounds and speeds up the aging process. The amount of time that wine stays in the oak barrels depends on the style of wine that the winemaker desires to create. The New World Pinot noir can possibly age less than a year in oak. The Premium Cabernet Sauvignon wine can spend two years. The incredibly tannic Nebbiolo grape might spend four years or even longer in oak. Producers of High end Rioja, on occasion will age wine as much as ten years in American oak in order to obtain the desired herbal and earthy characteristic.