Wines may be aged in new oak barrels or aged in barrels that have been used before. The cost of new barrels is high, so what are the pros and cons of using new versus old barrels in the wine-making business? Wine barrels serve many purposes from encouraging fermentation to ‘raising’ or maturing a wine. The cooperage that makes the barrels also imparts special characteristics to their own barrels making choice of cooperate a consideration and the choice of whether American or European oaks also impart different flavors to wines. With wines and barrels, there is no ‘right’ answer.
- Many of the world’s greatest white wines ferment and mature in oak casks. It’s labour intensive, but for many winemakers, the benefits amply justify the trouble.
- In red winemaking, oak barrels are central to what the French call élevage: the art of ‘raising’ or maturing a wine to ready it for the moment of bottling.
- One of the defining features of each cooper’s ‘house style’ is its proprietary toasting process, which dramatically alters the wood’s physical and chemical composition.
“Many of the world’s greatest white wines ferment and mature in oak casks. It’s labour intensive, but for many winemakers, the benefits amply justify the trouble.”