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You likely have seen used oak barrels for sale and probably wondered who buys them. The answer is simple: those who make wines prefer used oak barrels since they impart a unique flavor in the wine or other spirit stored in the barrels.
Wine aged in oak barrels allows it to interact with the wood releasing vanillin and other delicious substances. This substantially enhances the flavors of the wine. Wine enthusiasts would prefer such wines that have different flavors and notes in them.
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Before getting into the reasons for using used wine barrels, it is important to understand more about oak-aged wine.
We are always upfront about our used oak barrels and how they might affect your aging needs. Get in touch with us.
Using oak for aging
In earlier years, wine was stored in amphorae made from clay that would break easily. The Romans then started using the oak wood barrel to store wines and transport it more easily. They then observed that storing wine in oak barrels made it more flavor-filled and tasty.
It was observed that wine aged in oak barrels would bring out rich flavors that made it more palatable. Soon, this became the standard, and oak wood wine barrels became common. That is how oak and barrel became synonymous with storing wine.
The impact of oak on wines
There are different ways in which the oak aging barrel contributes to enhanced flavor:
- An oak wood barrel adds flavor compounds to the wine inside it. The process of toasting or charring where heat is added ensures thermal degradation of the wood. This causes different flavors like vanilla, smoke, coconut, and clove to be infused into the wine.
- The process of aging ensures the ingress of oxygen, and it happens slowly. This ensures the wine doesn’t have an astringent taste. At the same time, it imparts a smooth flavor to the wine, making it richer and more delicious.
- Metabolic reactions occur, and resulting in a wine that has a creamier taste.
The flavors that oak adds
Oak-aged wine gets a rich collection of flavors from the wood. The following are the compounds that are released and the flavors that it adds:
- Vanillin is a compound that adds a vanilla flavor to the wine.
- Oak lactone adds woody and coconut notes to the wine. It must be noted that the more the wood is charred, the lesser is the woody taste.
- Guaiacol creates burnt tones in the wine, imparting a distinct flavor and taste.
- Furfural is a compound that gives the wine a burnt almond or dried fruit flavor.
- Syringaldehyde also has a vanilla-like flavor enhancing the overall taste.
- Eugenol gives the flavors of cloves and provides the wine with a spicy tone.
We also offer oak barrels for sale that were used in the production of vanilla extract, hot sauces, and maple syrup.
Factors that affect the flavors
There are a number of factors that affect the flavors of the wine aged in oak barrels. These factors include:
It is a known fact that the oak wood barrel is preferred because of the flavors oak releases. You can obtain oak from Europe, or American oak can be used. European oak has a stronger woody taste and is spicier in flavor. American oak has a smooth and sweet taste with notes of vanilla and caramel in it. French oak brings in pepper and vanilla flavors to the wine.
2) How is it stored?
The quality of the air, the temperature, moisture content in the air would all impact the aging process. How the oak wood barrel is stored has a big role in determining the finalized flavors. Oak-aged wines stored in barrels at the top age faster, while barrels stored at the bottom age slowly. Storage thus has an impact on the flavors.
3) New or used
For bourbons, a new oak used barrel is needed. For other whiskeys, used wine barrels are preferred in many places. Even though the barrels are supposed to be refilled only twice, in Scotland, they are often re-used more times than that. Older or used barrels help in softening tannins by allowing a small amount of oxygen into the wine.
Used or neutral barrels are used since it creates a creamier texture that adds to the flavor. This helps to enhance the texture of the wine. It definitely has an impact on the flavor and the taste of the wine.
4) The size of the barrel
The barrel size has an effect on the aging process. The larger the size of the barrel, the longer aging will take. While large barrels can take years to age, a small one can age within months. This is because the aging duration depends on the volume of the barrels ratio to the surface area of the wood the wine is interacting with. Depending on your specific requirements for aging, you can choose the barrel size. This also has an impact on the flavor of the wine.
5) Charring and toasting
Toasting is essential, so the barrel flavors are released into the spirit stored in it. Charring is used for bourbon and rye.
The choice of toasting versus charring depends on the spirit inside the barrel and on the flavor requirements and desires. Toasting has a slow-burn effect, and the result is a lighter flavor. Charring involves a faster burn that helps to give a strong taste.
When oak is toasted, the wood sugar becomes caramelized. The result is the addition of caramel and vanilla notes if American oak is used. In the case of European oak being used, spices and tannin notes are introduced.
The sharp flavors originating from the wood are mellowed when the barrel is charred. The higher is the level of charring; the more is the quantity of spirits getting into the pores of the oaks.
Why are used barrels preferred?
When you buy oak barrels, depending on the kind of texture and flavor you want, you may prefer used wine barrels. The used barrels are neutral and help to give a unique and distinctive flavor that you cannot obtain from new barrels. This explains why many prefer used barrels.
There is no doubt that using a new barrel would allow the aged wine to get rich and intense flavors, especially spicy notes. But barrels that are older or neutral have a direct impact on the texture of the spirit stored in them. It also matters that new barrels are expensive. So used barrels make the process more economical.
Our team at the Rocky Mountain Barrel Company loves all the creative ways our barrels can be used. Contact us to buy oak barrels.