>> Thursday, 11 March 2010

Fermentation in barrel. Oak barrel aging and fermentation cellar. Chateau Reignac, Bordeaux, France


Oak barrels and cooperage, stock photography samples, by Per Karlsson, BKWine.

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Oak barrels play an important part in the life of many wines. It can also be cherry wood, acacia or other types, but in 99% of the cases it's oak. The barrels come in different sizes: a barrique of 225 litres in Bordeaux, a pièce of 228 l in Burgundy, the increasingly popular demi-muid (600 l) for those who want to be careful with the wood character, etc.

The barrel can be used in various phases of the vinification. Most common is that the wine is aged in barrel after fermentation. Sometimes, esp. for white wines, fermentation is done in barrel. Even red wines can be fermented in barrel, a complicated process which sometimes seems to verge on being a gimmick, often called vinification intégrale. The tendency seems to be to use less new oak than before and putting more emphasis on the fruit character from the grapes. At least in some regions.

Important is also if the barrel has been used before or not, i.e. if it is "new wood". New wood imparts its own character on the wine, a sort of flavouring if you will. Barrels that have been used once or several times looses that flavouring character. The same can be said of tannin: a new barrel adds tannin to the wine, but less with time. Another aspect of the barrel is a slow oxidation of the wine. This can be through the somewhat porous wood, or by the ullage in the barrel. Also important is how the barrel is made, what the cooper does in the cooperage. E.g. what "toasting" (or chauffe) the inside of the barrel gets; a certain charring over fire of the inside, that changes the flavour profile.

Barrels can cost 500 euro +; no cheap wine goes in barrel.

All images © copyright Per Karlsson, BKWine. Images may not be used without our permission.

Winery: barrels and barrel making - Images by Per Karlsson

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