Oak Flavor in Wines
French Oak Barrels
(fragile sessile oak Quercus petrae Liebl)
Research reflects that French oak has the highest tannin content of all the oaks. Wine can easily access a variety of compounds in this sessile oak which is more porous and provides a variety of extractives. One such example is the spice notes that are derived from such extractives including copaene and caryophyllene. There is less tyloses structurally and hand splitting by following the grain is needed. The more expensive timber can be sourced from the Office National des Forêts. Therefore, the barrel is more costly and winemakers better appreciate it for its oak flavor opposed to the high cost.
American Oak Barrels
(strong Quercus alba)
There are structural variances in the American oak barrel’s lignin and hemicellulose that result in stronger toastiness and more intense wood sugars and vanilla flavors. Stave timber is typically purchased from private landowners, making the log costs lower. American oak barrels have straight grain, high tyloses and high density which allows for machine cutting, high yields and lower barrel costs while still maintaining the popular traits. Red Head sells American Oak Barrels since they are used more in the U.S. and more readily available.
Eastern European Oak Barrels
[Slovenian & Hungarian] (slow growth Quercus petraea Liebl.)
If looked at closely under a microscope, this particular sessile oak is very close to the French oak barrels. However there are significant differences such as lower tannin levels. Also, the trees are smaller and grow more slowly. They have fine grain and allow for subtle extraction. Its hemicellulose degrades much easier, which creates a slightly different array of toasty aromas. The Eastern European oak can be purchased from both private land owners and government controlled forests. The barrels are sold at an average cost although the logs are inexpensive, because the yield is lower.