How Oak Influences the Taste of WineNovember 5, 2019
The President’s BottleJune 1, 2020
If it weren’t for Louis the XIV and Napoleon Bonaparte, wine could have been completely different today. It started with Louis the XIV’s head minister, Jean Baptiste Colbert in the 1600s. He had requested replantation of the forest in France to house a grove of French oak trees to be made into lumber for their Navy fleet ships. Napoleon, nearly a hundred years later, had the same idea after suffering the loses from the Battle of Trafalgar.
Unfortunate for both men, steam ships were created causing groves of unused oak trees. Fortunate for us wine lovers however, those groves became the main wood supply for building French oak barrels for wine making. Today, the five main forests that house these beautiful French oaks are Allier, Limousin, Nevers, Tronçais, and Vosges. The Limousin and Tronçais forests were originally planted by Jean Baptiste. Each forest houses certain characteristics that effect the influence it has on the wine.
The Allier forest, located between Nevers and Limousin, has a grove of tighter grained oaks. Wine makers may not use these barrels at times because they tend to produce a spicier flavor and aroma which can end up ruining their wine. In the center of France, the Limousin forest produces oak barrels more intended for Brandies. Wine makers do not typically use Limousin oak due to the wide grained structure that can cause flavors to be too bold. Nevers is also located in the center of France and has oak that grows with a medium to tight grain structure that produces a spicier cinnamon aroma.
Considered one of the finest forests of France, the Tronçais forest, a subsection of the Allier forest, produces oak that creates sweeter flavors in wine due to their large size and very tight grain structure. Due to their fine nature, Bordeaux’s are usually made in Tronçais oak. Vosges is the fifth famous forest of France that sits in a range of low set mountains. They also have a tight grain structure, which makes them like the Allier and Nevers oak, but tend to be slightly wider. These barrels are typically for Chardonnay or Pinot Noirs as they contain little to no color and smoother tannins.