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Wine Wisdoms #9: Why Barrel Fermentation is Special

Tuesday, December 9th, 2008 at 1:45:47 PM
by Josh F., Wine Enthusiast Companies

Barrel Fermentation

Most wines are fermented in large steel tanks. Some high quality white wines, particularly Chardonnays, are barrel fermented. This means that the grape juice is put into small (50 gallon) oak barrels along with the yeast, and wine is made. Barrel fermentation is very labor intensive as many, many barrels are used and must be tended to. It’s also an expensive technique because the barrels must be purchased, maintained and replaced frequently. The benefit is that the wines produced this way are richer and more complex than tank fermented wines.  Top burgundy producers barrel ferment and so do many exclusive California wineries.

We offer an assortment of “barrel” themed home decor items like our Personalized Barrel Top Lazy Susans, which make great gifts!

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2 Responses to “Wine Wisdoms #9: Why Barrel Fermentation is Special”

  1. How does the wood barrel play a part in affecting a wine’s taste, if at all?

  2. Wood barrels play a major role in the taste of wine. Wood is an organic substance that is also porous. To make a wine barrel the staves are heated over open fires to curve them, which also toasts the wood. When wine is put in a barrel it seeps into the pores of the wood and extracts numerous components including vanillin and caramel which come from the toasting process as well as smoky flavors. The oak itself also has flavor components called oak lactones which are also imparted. You may recognize these by thinking about the smell of fresh sawdust. In winemaking it’s important to balance the flavor components from the oak barrels so they do not overwhelm the fruit. When handled properly all of these flavor components mingle with the fruity flavors in the wine, expanding its flavor profile and making it a more interesting and enjoyable drink.

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