Are French oak barrels for aging wine made from white oak or red oak?

Ask Dr Vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, but you can call me Vinny. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the fine points of etiquette to the science of winemaking. And don't worry, I'm no wine snob—you can also ask me those "dumb questions" you're too embarrased to ask your wine geek friends! I hope you find my answers educational, empowering and even amusing. And don't forget to check out my most asked questions and my full archives for all my Q&A classics.

Dear Dr. Vinny,

Are French oak barrels made from white oak or red oak?

—Ken, Ontario, Canada

Dear Ken,

I’ve only heard of oak barrels for aging wine being made from white oak trees. Specifically, wine barrels are made from Quercus robur and Quercus sessiliflora trees in France, Quercus alba in the United States, Quercus robur in Croatia’s Slavonia region and Quercus petraea in Hungary.

But I wouldn’t be surprised if there are winemakers working with red oak. Barrel aging is a popular area of experimentation for winemakers. It’s not uncommon to hear about barrels from other trees, like acacia and chestnut. Oak is uniquely suited to aging wine because of its tight grain, which means it doesn’t leak, and the flavors it imparts are well understood (and commonly sought by winemakers and consumers).

—Dr. Vinny

Ask Dr. Vinny Aging Wine Winemaking Techniques Explained

More In Dr. Vinny

How does Wine Spectator review canned wines in blind tastings?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains the procedure for blind-tasting wines from …

Aug 3, 2020

When will wine from Virginia get the recognition it deserves?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains why Virginia's wines aren't more well-known on …

Jul 31, 2020

Why do Champagne bubbles come from the bottom of my glass?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains carbon dioxide "nucleation sites."

Jul 29, 2020

What's the best way to keep a bottle of wine chilled while traveling?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny offers tips for keeping your wine cool once it's left the …

Jul 27, 2020

Can I make wine from raisins?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains why dried-out grapes can make for some pretty …

Jul 24, 2020

Why are red wine grapes fermented with the grape skins but white wine grapes aren’t?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains why white wines aren't made with grape skin …

Jul 22, 2020