The flavor and aroma of oak in wine is only second to Red or White in dividing wine drinkers. Many people simply will not give themselves a chance to appreciate how oak can be artfully used to enhance wine quality whether it’s Red or White. I like the flavor of oak in any of its applications especially when it is used to shape a wine into a more complex version of itself. Wine makers have leaned on oak barrels for centuries to give their wine both structure and flavors. The oxygen that seeps into the barrels helps mature the wine while causing the loss of a small amount of wine that is said to be the ” Angel
Share”. Oak wood for wine barrels is grown throughout the world and has a distinctive flavor associated with each region from which it is harvested. American Oak has a pronounced level of flavor that is imparted to the wine while French Oak is said to be more subtle (Let the arguments begin). Coopers are able to give wine makers more control over their flavors by the amount of toasting they do to the inside of a barrel, mixing different kinds oak staves used to make a barrel and even making the oak wood in to chips or sticks that can be floated in vats of wine. Today’s wine makers don’t have to paint the portrait of a wine using only broad brush strokes of oak, they can paint shadows of light and dark accents of flavors with the precision of an artist using small brush strokes to bring out all the nuances of a wine. The organic compounds that are released into the wine give it structure and flavor while drawing out hidden flavors to add complexity to the wine. When done correctly the addition of oak can produce a truly unique wine. The difference that oak makes in the personality of a wine can be seen by tasting three different Chardonnay. The first being made entirely in stainless steel to preserve fruit flavors, the second aged in used barrels for texture only and the third aged in new oak to get a creamy texture plus an aromatic vanilla taste. After tasting the differences in the three you will be able to the tell which methods you like the best.