Before young wine is put into barrels, it can often taste harsh and aggressive. Like a teenager, it needs to spend some time softening, harmonizing and becoming balanced. Oak barrels are the optimal vessel for this process. At Renwood our wines rest in oak for six to twenty-four months, they undergo chemical changes that can only occur with the slow exposure to air that a barrel provides. We use oak rather than other types of wood because it is a dense, tight-grained wood. As a result it does not leak but allows oxidation to occur. While wine is aging in the barrel, it also absorbs some of the flavor compounds from the wood, and the flavors that oak impart pair better with wine than other types of wood. Since we cannot add flavoring to wines, we consider our oak barrels to be our spice cabinet.
We find that American Oak tends to impart more vanilla notes and higher toastiness while Eastern European oak from Slovenia and Hungary imparts higher tannin and gives a greater refinement to wine because the grain is tighter. French Oak barrels are generally the most expensive and are favored by winemakers for their flavor characteristics. They have the highest tannin of the oak types and are more porous, providing multiple flavor extractions including popular spice notes.
Most barrels are toasted to provide the perfect harmony between wood and wine. Staves are bent over a wood fire to prepare the aromatic finishing of the barrel. Along with closely monitored temperatures and fire intensities, distinctive organoleptic characteristics are achieved. Barrels toasted in this long and gradual way, come in a variety of finishes.
- Light Toast - Brings fruit aromas to the front
- Medium Toast - Fruit is dominant; very intense aromatic complexity
- Medium Toast+ - Fruit mellows with slightly burnt flavors
- Heavy Toast - Spicy, grilled aromas predominate
At Renwood, we currently have over 2,000 active barrels purchased from more than 20 Cooperages all over the world.