Thank you Jeremy Eubanks and Darla Hoffmann for contributing last week on Fraud Prevention!
This week: Barrels
How does barrel age and size impact the winemaking process and overall flavors of the wine?
The full impact of barrel oak flavour diminishes rapidly after the first two or three years' use. Oak tannin is useful in augmenting and slightly varying the tannins naturally present in wine as preservatives. Scents and flavours that barrel impart to wine are vanilin, spices ( smell of a carpenter's shop). Foudres or demi-muids or stücks offer a diminished oak flavour but an ideal environment with very gradual oxidation, for the maturing and slow stabilizing of wine.
The compounds extracted from the oak give a wine much of its flavor, especially the younger and smaller the barrel. The larger the barrel used, the less oak lactones and oxygen are imparted into a wine. French Barriques are usually 225 liters, whereas Bottis and Foudres are about 1000–20,000 liters. Oaking wines can diminish color and soften tannins in red wines, where in whites it can give it a toasty flavor and a stronger tannic structure.
To elaborate on this a bit, I think this is super important and among the best topics that really shows how theory/ tasting/ and practical application can all tie in together to broaden your overall understanding. As stated above, In general the smaller and newer the barrel, the more oak character is imparted into the wine (and vice versa with larger/older barrels). With repeated use the oak impact that the barrel will have will continue to diminish. Beyond that, understanding which regions in the world use which type and size of barrel as classic method of production will really help to gauge typicality and quality when tasting, buying, or selling a wine. In addition, it is helpful to investigate the character imparted by different types of wood used, toast levels, etc..and how they compare.