How best to learn about oak treatment in wine?

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Brian S t o t t e r
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How best to learn about oak treatment in wine?

#1 Post by Brian S t o t t e r » January 12th, 2018, 4:26 pm

I was discussing this with Doug Schulman earlier after tasting a tempranillo and mistakenly thinking the earthy qualities I was tasting was heavy oak treatment.

One part of wine tasting that I continue to struggle with is differentiating differences in oak aging. Are there particular wines that are fairly representative of these qualities (e.g. 100% French, 100% American) or similar wines with different oak treatments for me to experiment with that you recommend? One idea we had was to do a comparison of same vintage, same producer wines but from different appellations (e.g. Guigal Cote du Rhone vs. Gigondas), but was curious what else might work.
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Bill S.
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How best to learn about oak treatment in wine?

#2 Post by Bill S. » January 12th, 2018, 5:51 pm

Not sure if this will help but try finding a producer who has several levels of the same variatial to try. I know Stewart Cellars in Napa has several different levels as does Stags Leap Wine Cellars and others. The big problem with this is where are the grapes coming from as not all are estate grown but sourced from the entire valley. Even with that caveat the oak treatment is different for the different levels.

Hope that helps.
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Ian Sutton
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How best to learn about oak treatment in wine?

#3 Post by Ian Sutton » January 13th, 2018, 8:51 am

I'm tempted to quip "by reading the label and/or looking at the winery website".

La Nez du vin (and other copycats) used to do sniffing samples to help compare such differences. Also a number of producers use heavy-handed oaking, so the oak style is amplified. Whilst this might be educational to compare extremists, I see oak as a good way to help a wine mature, not as a way to add overt flavouring. If it's so strong it's strikingly obvious, then it's too strong an influence for me.

Rioja and Piemonte offer a chance to compare, typically the former being US vs. French oak, whilst the latter typically Slavonian (more neutral) vs. French oak.

Some grapes will easily fool us, where say a tobacco element might have us thinking French oak, but it's the grape variety. Butter in whites can come from oak ageing, or for some wines just age in the bottle. I'm sure others can give a thorough list of which grapes can easily fool us.
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Steve Slatcher
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How best to learn about oak treatment in wine?

#4 Post by Steve Slatcher » January 17th, 2018, 6:17 am

If your goal is to learn to recognise oakiness aromatically, I would suggest you try wines at the cheaper end of the spectrum. As Ian said - read the label. Oak chips will do fine for that exercise.

Better wines wine use oak more sensitively, and not only (or not at all) for the aromas. The effects will be a lot more subtle, and any oak aromas should be balanced by good fruit. It would be interesting to learn to spot this sort of oaking too, but I would start with the aromatics.

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Drew Goin
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How best to learn about oak treatment in wine?

#5 Post by Drew Goin » January 17th, 2018, 6:39 am

Here are a couple of articles from Wines & Vines on the subject:

"The Art Of Oak It starts with the science of oak compounds; part 1 of 2"
by Dr. Richard Carey ... Art-Of-Oak

"The Art of Oak: Part 2 Use of oak alternatives in modern winemaking"
by Dr. Richard Carey ... Oak-Part-2

"Winemaker Roundtable: Horror Stories"
Author: Lance Cutler ... or-Stories

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