Wine Barrels for Intense Flavoured Red Wines
BARRELS OF OAK
Everyday reds will probably be bottled, like most whites, just a few months after the vintage to preserve their fresh fruity flavour, but more intense reds are left to pick up extra elements of flavour and tannins from wood. Great red wines and those designed for long ageing may be left for months, sometimes years, to mature in oak – either small barrels or large vats. Different oaks impart different flavours, with American oak giving a sweet suggestion of vanilla and some of the French oaks being rather more subtle.
While the wine is kept in barrel, it is important to keep it moving fairly frequently from one barrel to another so that it does not pick up any harmful bacteria or flavours from the lees in the bottom of the barrel. This process is called ‘racking’, and may be preceded by ‘fining’, that is precipitating the tiniest solids by adding a substance that attracts them, such as white of egg. The top chateaux of Bordeaux boast of the number of egg yolks thrown out each year.
In the production of any wine, the blending of different vats, or different barrels, or different grape varieties or even completely different wines is a highly skilled operation and can play a crucial role in determining flavour. It is important to stress that blending can be a noble art and not necessarily a sign of skulduggery.