Choose Your Top Wine – PART 4
Barrels and Bottles
Oak is used in winemaking to differ the color, flavor, tannin profile and texture of wine. It can be presented in the form of a barrel during the fermentation or aging periods, or as free-floating chips or staves added to wine fermented in a vessel like stainless steel. Oak barrels can impart other qualities to wine through evaporation and low level exposure to oxygen.
If you like vanilla, search out wine aged in American oak. For aromas and flavors such as black and white pepper, cinnamon, and coffee, look for wine aged in French oak. Information on the type of oak used is often noted on back labels.
Better wines are fermented or matured in oak barrels rather than less costly oak chips, staves, or essence. If a wine’s label uses more elusive phrases such as “oak maturation” or “oak influence” rather than the word barrel,” the winemaker has probably chosen one of the less expensive methods. Barrels create more integrated wood flavors.
Better wines are usually found in heavier bottles. This is a clue to quality.
Wines in magnum age about one and a half times as long as the same wine in a normal sized wine bottle.Wines in half bottles age more quickly than regular bottles of the same wine—in about two-thirds the time.