Some people love oaked wines. Some people hate them.
Many other people will drink just about whatever comes their way, without ever wondering what's even in the glass...please make sure you're never one of those people!
Whatever it is...have an OPINION about it!
And tasting wood-toned wines is an easy exercise to flex some opinionated muscle.
Why are some wines aged in oak?
Because after hundreds of years of trial and error, winemakers have come to the definitive conclusion that white oak, as compared to redwood or chestnut or even just regular oak, was THE wood that produced the highest quality aged wines.
For one, wines aged in oak barrels display a more appealing color, and doesn't suffer the same evaporation rate as other woods.
It's smell is much more appealing, and less over-powering, than other woods used in the past.
Plus on a strictly practical level, oak wood is flexible, making it an ideal wood to be formed into staves and barrels.
Inside oak there's an organic compound called aldehyde that permeates the wine during fermentation and aging, and the aromas produced do indeed complement some wines.
American oak. French oak. Hungarian oak. What's the difference?
American oak tends to be stronger and more upfront with its woody aromas.
It produces those 'power wines' with a robust mouthfeel and oftentimes exhibits an aromatic bouquet of vanilla, butterscotch, and mocha.
French oak, being tighter-grained than its US counterpart, produces a milder, silkier effect due to its slower, steadier permentation into the wine.
Plus, it's naturally higher in tannins. One downside? It's at least twice as expensive as American oak. French oak's 'nose' leans towards berries, roses, or leather.
Hungarian oak is a third options that's gaining traction in the wine making world. It's a great compromise between the French and American types.
Also being a European wood, its characteristics resemble silkier French oak, versus heavier American oak.
But unlike the expensive French, it's a more affordable option without a sacrifice on taste.
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