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

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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

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