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Why is wine aged in Oak barrels?

Everyone always talks about all those barrels…this wine was aged for 18 months in new French Oak, and that wine for 22 months in American Oak.

What’s all the big fuss about, and what happens to a wine while it sits in the barrel?

Aging in an Oak barrel is an important part of the maturation process for most red and some white wines, allowing time for the wine to integrate and find balance. Over time, the wine gets exposed to small amounts of oxygen through the pores of the wood allowing for a slow oxidation over time. The wines will also take on aromas and flavors of the oak as it ages, providing what some winemakers compare to a picture frame encasing the natural fruitiness of the wine.

The speed and characteristics of the changes vary depending on the types of barrels a winemaker chooses and are often matched to the specific variety and vineyard: species (American, French or Eastern European); the level of ‘toast’ (most barrels are gently toasted on the inside providing notes of caramel, baking spices, vanilla and other delicious aromas that wine professional classify as “secondary” characteristics of a wine); and how old or new a barrel is (barrels impart more flavors and aromas in it’s first use and is consider neutral after two or three uses).

Click here for tips on how to taste wines from barrel.