Posts Tagged ‘Oak’

Champagne and the use of oak.

Champagne and the use of oak.

 

While there is no consensus on the use of oak in Champagne production, Michael Edwards considers when it can have a beneficial effect
NOT SO long ago, a sure-fire way of generating a heated argument between winemakers in Champagne (as in Chablis) was to talk about the virtues and pitfalls of making their best, purest wine in oak. There’s one fine grower in a grand cru village, a charming and highly educated man, who grows apoplectic at the thought of his precious Champagne being sullied by a single wooden stave. Certainly since the late 1960s, stainless steel has become the overwhelmingly preferred medium of fermentation in Champagne – because in tank, control of the grape’s journey into wine is complete and it’s easier to use. By the early 1990s, only a few perfectionists led by Krug, Bollinger and Selosse stayed true to their barrels and casks.
Fruits of the forest

How things change. Twenty years on, it’s reckoned that about 100 Champagne producers use oak in one form or other: to ferment the wine, partially or fully, to age the reserve wines or, easily forgotten, when making the wine for the dosage – a crucial skill.

Read on …

Oenophiles participating in a tasting workshop.

Oenophiles participating in a tasting workshop.

 

AŸ, FRANCE — Want to start a fight at a wine tasting? Just mention “oak.”
Few issues get wine lovers as worked up as the question of whether to ferment or age wine in wooden barrels, usually made of oak. Doing so can help mellow the wine and add structure, richness and complexity. Done with a heavy hand, it can also smother the wine with the vanilla-like flavor of oak, obscuring its fruit, freshness and origins.

The use of oak increased in the 1980s and ’90s as winemakers around the world responded to consumer demand and critical acclaim for ripe, powerful reds and plump, buttery whites. Then came the backlash. Now things have swung so far that some self-consciously trendy wine drinkers recoil in mock horror at any hint of wood, extolling the virtues of wines made in vats of stainless steel or other neutral materials.

Dining at a fashionable organic restaurant in London not long ago, I overheard a woman at the neighboring table tell her partner, “Mmm, this is a good chardonnay; it must have been unoaked” – as if that grape variety grew on trees, making oak removal one of the necessary stages in the production of a good chardonnay.

But when it comes to oak, at least one wine region, Champagne, is — forgive me — going against the grain. And you will find no stronger champion of oak than Claude Giraud, who runs Champagne Henri Giraud, a medium-size, family-owned producer in the grand cru village of Aÿ.

 

Read on …

The magical world of a barrel cellar.

The magical world of a barrel cellar.

 

I have often wondered why winemakers put their wines, white or red, in oak barrels and age them for sometimes months at a time.

The University of California Davis recently conducted a seminar on oak management and wine sensory issues. It looked at the use of oak barrels and oak adjuvants such as oak staves and oak powder with regard to how the oak may affect the wine’s chemical composition, aroma and flavors.

To me, the aroma of a wine is the “smell” of the specific grape varietal. But this very sensitive element can be easily influenced by the winemaking techniques and the use of oak barrels.

One obvious question is: why were oak barrels chosen to store wine in the beginning? The barrel is a perfect container to age wine in and is easily moved around manually. The answer seems to be related to the fact that oak barrels do not leak if properly coopered.

One of the most intriguing questions that was discussed at this seminar was what would have been the impact on wine tastes and wine’s appeal if a different tree had been chosen for barrel production. Has the effects of the oak barrel basically defined our tastes for different styles of wine?

Most European oak barrels are made from the Quercus petrea or Quercus robur while Quercus alba or the white oak is the main species used in American oak barrels. Today a good French oak barrel sells for around $1,000 a barrel and many of these barrels can only be used for several years before they lose their ability to enhance the flavors of the wine.

Read on …

alpha_beta

 

 

Excuse me, waiter, but why is my caipirinha glowing?

Researchers in Brazil say they’ve found a faster way to age cachaça, the liquor used to make the country’s signature cocktail, the caipirinha: zap it with gamma radiation.

Cachaça, Brazil’s rum-like spirit, is often bottled as soon as it’s distilled but it can also be aged in barrels for three years or more, giving the spirit greater color, flavor and complexity.

Impatient scientists have discovered that a dose of gamma rays ionizes the cachaça, speeding up chemical reactions that take place naturally during the aging process from years to minutes.

This supercharged version of the sugarcane moonshine known as cachaça carries with it no radiation risk, said Valter Artur of the Nuclear Energy Center at the University of Sao Paolo.

 

Read on …