Wine barrels

Production methods

The effect of wood on wine

What is the effect of wood on wine? Should it be noticeable or understated? Here is a bit of background on maturing wine in oak.

Published on October 14, 2020

Maturing in oak barrels

When discussing the maturing of wine, the time it is matured is measured from the moment the wine is produced to when it is put on the market. This period is beneficial for the wine and allows it to become mature. In the case of fine wines and high-quality wines, maturation is accomplished in kegs (barrels). The most commonly used wood for this purpose is oak.

The kegs have two effects on wine.
First, oak kegs breathe. Wood is a preservation material that is permeable to oxygen. It allows the wine to age in contact with a small, but beneficial, amount of air.
Second, the wood that is in contact with the wine lends it certain aromas, often reminiscent of wood, cedar, smoke, roasting, chocolate, vanilla, maple, caramel and sweet spices (cinnamon and nutmeg).

Some wines have very noticeable aromas of wood, as well as notes of vanilla, pastry and chocolate that are quite present, which some find attractive. Others find these wines to be overly perfumed (sometimes referred to as “maquillé”) to the point where any accents provided by the raw material, the fruit, has been hidden. Ideally, the wood should complement the wine, lending it a fine complexity instead of completely taking over.

Here are two woody wines, the first with aromas of new wood and vanilla, the second with accents of chocolate and mocha coffee:

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