The use of barrels has been linked to the history of wine for years, experts affirm that anciently the Romans used amphorae for their storage. However, since they discovered that the barrel was much more “useful” in its transport, they established this maturation and fermentation system as official.
The barrel, which is also usually called a vat or barrel, oxygenates the wine and transfers some nuances or others depending on the wood chosen. The choice of this is a decision made by the winemaker since it is decisive in the type of wine he wants to make.
Oak barrels, whether American or French, are the most used but there are several options such as cherry or acacia that are used all over the world. Know all the terminology that exists around these wine containers.
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What types of barrels are there?
This material is softer than American oak, the oxygenation of the wine is slower, therefore, it provides soft and delicate flavors. The growth of the tree intervenes greatly in the quality of the wood, if the development is slower, the grain is finer and therefore better.
Wood is more resistant, hard and permeable, which translates into much more powerful touches, which are achieved in a much faster way. It provides strong aromas such as cocoa or coffee, in addition it usually transfers less tannins.
It has more similarities with its French namesake due to the geographical area in which it is located. It is usually the material chosen for red wines, it has great oenological potential as it provides vanilla and smoked nuances.
Two varieties can be distinguished depending on the degree of toasting that the wood has, if it is not toasted it will be used in white wines due to the fresh touches it transmits, if on the contrary it is partially toasted it can also be used for the preservation of red wines.
Like acacia wood, there are two types of barrels in cherry, both of which are used for both reds and whites, when it has a medium level of toasting it provides much more intense nuances of plums or cherries.
The choice of a barrel is made by the oenologist, since it is decisive for the elaboration of the wine.
In addition to the classification that exists by the kind of material that makes up a barrel, the level of toasting that it has, will also give rise to different categories:
- If it is strong it will provide smoky nuances, in a medium degree you can appreciate essences of cocoa or vanilla
- And if the toast is light, it transfers subtle aromas of walnut or coconut.
- In short, being aware that the land, the vineyard or the material used are the essential starting point for a great wine.
Wine aging: what happens when the liquid rests in oak barrels?
Tertiary aromas, tannins, roundness of color and longevity. In these four concepts we summarize the contribution of oak barrels to wines.
It is very important to take into account the type of wine that will come into contact with the wood and the desired profile. Not all varieties “support” oak rest. Thus, the choice of a barrel for aging a Pinot Noir-based wine should be based on different assumptions than those used to choose a barrel for a Cabernet Sauvignon or a Merlot.
Having made this clarification, here we review infallible tips for an optimal storage of wine in barrels.
The barrel room must be conditioned with the appropriate temperature and humidity. Before using a new barrel for the first time, it must be filled with water to hydrate it, so that it has good impermeability, in order to identify possible leaks and eliminate foreign bodies.
Advantages of parenting
- Allows optimal aging of the wine.
- It increases the aromatic and sensory quality due to complexity with the odorous compounds of the wood.
- Increases the structure of the wine (especially in reds).
- Increases the volume of the wine in the mouth.
How long do we leave a wine in the wood?
The optimal time of permanence of the wood in contact with the wine is variable. It depends on the composition of the wine and the type of compounds extracted over time.
The time that the wine will spend in the oak barrels (French or American) can be from a few months (3 or 6) to a year and a half (18 months) or perhaps two years (24 months), depending on the profile. of the wine and age of the barrels (they have 3 or 4 uses, maximum)
What role does oxygen play?
If we add wood to a wine in a hermetically sealed tank, no development of aromas attributable to wood will take place.
Oxygen is a fundamental condition for the aromatic precursors from oak to transform into aromatic compounds.
What is the ideal temperature in the barrel room?
- The perfect temperature is between 12 and 16 ° C.
- Higher temperatures favor contamination by microorganisms and aromatic losses.
- Lower temperatures favor the dissolution of oxygen, but not its consumption by the wine.
What compounds does aging provide?
The barrel yields many volatile compounds to the wine: Oak Lactone, aromas reminiscent of coconut (American oak); Eugenol, which smells of spices (cloves), and Vanillin, with the smell of vanilla (French oak).
The formation of tannin-anthocyanin complexes modifies and stabilizes the color of red wines and it should be noted that the condensation of tannins induces a decrease in their astringency. Ultimately, the wine lasts longer.
The moderate oxidation allowed by the permeability of the wood that reduces the CO2 content allows the evolution of phenolic compounds and the formation of aromas. Thus, tertiary aromas emerge (typical of the oak barrel).
What are the toasts of the barrel?
- Light roasting: banana peel, roasted honey, cocoa cream, creamed coffee, white chocolate, resin, varnish, woodwork, sawdust, toothpicks.
- Medium roast: roasted almond, caramel, liquorice, roast, chocolate, tobacco, roasted coffee, espresso.
- Strong toasting: toasted bread, smoke, dry leaves, gunpowder, graphite, burned wood, embers of vine shoots, dark chocolate.
Remember that Wine Barrels can easily help you give this old western feeling to any area of the house and you can rent them or buy them today. Contact us for more information.