Awesome breakdown of Lanzarote DO last post by Blake Leja, Rachael Ryan, Ryan Bogdan, Jeremy Eubanks and a super cool photo from inderpal singh.
This week: Acacia barrels
How do these differ from oak? What styles will you typically see them used for? Name another alternative to oak that is used for wine barrels production.
Acacia wood barrels differ from oak mainly be imparting less flavor or more subtle flavors to the wine, and instead are used to give the wine a round and creamy texture and mouthfeel. Acacia comes from forests in northern France, and is sawed rather than split into staves. The price of the barrels is typically more than American oak but less expensive than French oak.
Acacia is used by some producers in Europe and the U.S. primarily with white wine styles such as Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Chenin Blanc, where the desire is to maintain and not overpower the varietal character and flavor profile of the grape, and to provide textural impact of wood and oxygen flow without the oak lactones or flavors such as vanilla and toast.
One other alternative to oak used for wine barrels is chestnut wood. Chestnut barrels are used, for example, in traditional Vin Santo production in Tuscany, because they contribute high amounts of wood tannins and are very porous, promoting increased evaporation in the barrel during many years of maturation.
Do you know the exact species of Acacia? My personal investigation would suggest it is Robinia pseudoacacia (AKA Black Locust) but I would appreciate someone's affirmation!
The following is an excerpt from an article fro Sevenfifty.com:
Barrel Builders owner Phil Burton says the acacia used in winemaking is technically from black locust—Robinia pseudoacacia—a tree that’s native to the southeastern U.S. but was exported to Europe about 500 years ago. He gets all of his acacia barrels from French coopers working with French-grown trees, and doesn’t know of any coopers using American acacia. Compared with nearly 5,000 French and American oak barrels, plus several thousand used oak barrels, Burton sells just 100 or so acacia barrels a year. He doesn’t expect that number to skyrocket anytime soon—in part because he thinks acacia will remain a small portion of a wine’s processing for the sake of flavor and appearance. “The 100-percent-acacia-barrel samples I’ve tasted—I don’t like them very much,” he says. “They get a chemical note to me and have the color of pee. The wood is yellowish and transmits that to the wine.”
The full article:
Saw a bunch of small producers using them for viognier and marsanne/rousanne in the Ardeche department. Since those wines can have a bit of a chemical note and can be the color of pee already, I'm not sure I noticed.
Kozlovic in Istria does a Malvazija in acacia barrels. Tenuta Anfosso also produces a Rossesse Bianco in Liguria that's aged in acacia.
In terms of alternative barrel elevage--though not technically for wine production--Taruzake incorporates aging of sake in cedar barrels. Also, in Brazil, they tend to use a variety of local species for aging cachaça, including Amendoim-bravo, Jequitiba-branco, and Araruva.
Apolloni vineyards in Willamette uses acacia to age their Pinot Gris. Winemaker said it adds a slight floral note, as it softens the wine.