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Glossary

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Search results for: Oak

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American Oak: An alternative to French oak for making barrels in which to age wine. Marked by strong vanilla, dill and cedar notes, it is used primarily for aging Cabernet, Merlot and Zinfandel, for which it is the preferred oak. It's less desirable, although used occasionally, for Chardonnay or Pinot Noir. New American oak barrels can be purchased for about half the price of French oak barrels.
French Oak: The traditional wood for wine barrels, which supplies vanilla, cedar and sometimes butterscotch flavors. Used for red and white wines. Much more expensive than American oak, new French oak barrels can cost twice as much as new American barrels.
New Oak: Refers to the first time a barrel is used, when it has the greatest impact on wine. With successive uses, the wood imparts fewer flavors and tannins. Flavors associated with new oak include vanilla, cedar, toast and smoke. The wood tannins in newer barrels add firmness to the wine's structure. As with most components in wine, moderation and balance are key; new oak can be a positive or a negative influence, depending on whether it subtly enhances the wine or overpowers the fruit flavors.
Oak Chips: Instead of gaining complexity in expensive oak barrels during the aging process, some popularly-priced wines are aged with small pieces of wood to gain their oaky flavors. Also called beans.
Oaky: Describes the aroma or taste quality imparted to a wine by the oak barrels or casks in which it was aged. Can be either positive or negative. The terms toasty, vanilla, dill, cedary and smoky indicate the desirable qualities of oak; charred, burnt, green cedar, lumber and plywood describe its unpleasant side. See also American oak, French oak.
Vosges Oak: Vosges Oak Tight-grained French oak from the Vosges Mountains in Alsace used to make wine barrels.

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Barrel Fermented: Denotes wine that has been fermented in small casks (usually 55-gallon oak barrels) instead of larger tanks. Advocates believe that barrel fermentation contributes greater harmony between the oak and the wine, increases body and adds complexity, texture and flavor to certain wine types. Its liabilities are that more labor is required and greater risks are involved. It is mainly used for whites.
Bouquet: The smell that a wine develops after it has been bottled and aged. Most appropriate for mature wines that have developed complex flavors beyond basic young fruit and oak aromas.
Buttery: Indicates the smell of melted butter or toasty oak. Also a reference to texture, as in "a rich, buttery Chardonnay."
Cedary: Denotes the smell of cedar wood associated with mature Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet blends aged in French or American oak.
Coarse: Usually refers to texture, and in particular, excessive tannin or oak. Also used to describe harsh bubbles in sparkling wines.
Limousin: Limousin A forest near Limoges, France, that produces oak for barrels. The loose-grained wood from this area readily imparts flavors to wine.
Smoky: Usually the result of fermenting or aging in oak barrel, a smoky quality can add flavor and aromatic complexity to a wine.
Supple: Describes texture, mostly with reds, as it relates to tannin, body and oak. A positive characteristic.
Tannins: Tannins The mouth-puckering polyphenols, most prominent in red wines, that are derived primarily from grape skins, seeds and stems, but also from oak barrels. Tannins are an important component of a wine's structure and texture, and act as a natural preservative that help wine age and develop.
Toasty: Describes a flavor derived from the oak barrels in which wines are aged. Also, a character that sometimes develops in sparkling wines.
Allier: A forest in France that produces oak used for wine barrels.
Barrel Aged: Denotes a wine that has spent a period of time in barrels before bottling. This affects wine in numerous ways—the flavors in newly blended wines knit together, tannins in red wines soften and white wines become richer and more full-bodied. Aging in new oak barrels (barrels used for the first few times) can add aromas and flavors of vanilla, spice and smoke.
Barrel Making: After the wood for a barrel is cut and dried, the cooper heats the wood while shaping it into a barrel. Steam, natural gas, boiling water, the burning of oak chips or some combination of these is used in the three-part heating process. The first application of heat (the warming stage) is called chauffage, the bending of the wooden staves into a barrel shape is called cintrage and, finally, the toasting of the wood for flavor is called bousinage.
Barrique: Barrique French term for small oak barrel.
Beans: Small bean-shaped pieces of wood added to wine during winemaking to impart oak flavors. Less expensive than oak barrels, beans are used primarily in inexpensive wines. They are rounder in shape and thought to add fewer harsh flavors than oak chips.
Demi-Muid: Demi-Muid A French term for 600-liter capacity oak barrels, typically used in the Rhône Valley.
Foudre: A large wooden vat, popular in France's Rhône Valley, significantly larger than typical oak barrels, often with the capacity to hold more than a thousand liters of wine.
Gran Reserva: Gran Reserva, the highest level of Spain’s quality categories, is only made in the best vintages. This distinction requires reds to be aged at least five years with a minimum of two in oak.
Nevers: Nevers A forest in France that produces hard, medium-grained oak for barrels.
Reserva: Reserva A quality classification in Spain. Red reservas must be aged at least three years, with a minimum of one year in oak.
Micro-oxygenation: This technique, used almost exclusively on red wines, allows winemakers to control the amount of oxygen that wines in tank are exposed to. The apparatus involves chambers connected by tubes and valves to an oxygen tank. Small, measured amounts of oxygen are allowed to pass through the wine via a porous stone or ceramic plate at or near the base of the tank. The benefits of this type of oxygen exposure include prevention of oxidation and reduction as well as promotion of healthy yeast cultures, which prevent stuck fermentations. Micro-oxygenation is also believed to soften tannins and, in conjunction with the use of oak chips, is frequently practiced as an alternative to oak barrel aging.
Winemaking: Largely synonymous with "Vinification," winemaking is the process by which harvested grapes are crushed, fermented (and otherwise manipulated through yeast inoculations, temperature control, punch-downs, pump-overs, racking, oak-chip additions, filtering, etc.), aged in barrel, steel tank or other vessel, and finally bottled.
Sherry: Sherry is a fortified wine made in Jerez, Spain, most often from the Palomino grape but also from the Pedro Ximénez and Moscatel varieties. Following fermentation, the wine is fortified with distilled wine spirit, up to the minimum strength of 15.5 percent alcohol. The fortified wine is then usually aged in oak barrels arranged in a solera system of multiple vintages, and which may include more than a hundred vintages of Sherry blended together. Sherries may be classified by their quality, age, sweetness and or alcohol contents into categories which include fino, manzanilla, amontillado, oloroso, cream, etc.
Fût de chêne: French term for oak barrel.

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