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Does Wine Actually Breathe in Barrels?

Most fashionable wine is made in stainless-steel tanks. However winemakers nonetheless use conventional oak barrels to refine and enhance most premium crimson wines and a few whites too — most notably chardonnay — even when they aren’t aiming so as to add the toasty flavors of latest oak.

Simply as a chef may scale back a sauce over warmth to pay attention its flavors, or add butter to complement its texture, vintners use each older and newer barrels to dial up the depth of a wine’s flavors by means of evaporation, or to melt its mouthfeel, by means of small-scale chemical reactions pushed by oxygen throughout barrel maturation.

For many years, wine professionals have been taught that these had been results of wooden being porous, permitting slow-controlled publicity to air, in contrast to metal or glass. Air was thought to make its method by means of a barrel’s staves or joints to interchange the lacking wine, as if it by means of a wood sponge, with a softening impact on the wine’s mouthfeel.

However current research have proven that this mechanism was misunderstood. It isn’t the porous nature of wooden, or the cracks the place staves meet, that present essentially the most aeration, however fairly the frequency with which barrels have to be opened for upkeep. The overwhelming majority of oxygen absorbed by wine throughout barrel maturation is launched periodically in large gulps every time the barrel stopper or bung is eliminated, fairly than by way of steady “respiration” by means of the wooden.

When It Involves Wine Aeration, It’s All About That Bung, Not the Barrel

In comparison with wine saved in metal tanks, wine aged in oak barrels have to be accessed by winemakers by way of the bung gap often for routine duties, corresponding to racking, topping and testing. Racking is when wine is transferred from one vessel to a different, both straight from a fermentation tank, or from one barrel to a different, with a purpose to separate it from sediments.

Barrels have to be periodically topped up too, since water and alcohol are misplaced to evaporation throughout maturation, shrinking the wine’s liquid quantity step by step over time. Barrels are additionally opened often to test their progress, whether or not for sampling or lab testing.

Characteristic photograph by Jim Harris on Unsplash.

Marnie Previous is without doubt one of the nation’s main wine educators. Previously the director of wine research for Manhattan’s French Culinary Institute, she is greatest recognized for her visually partaking books revealed by DK – corresponding to Wine: A Tasting Course. Marnie at the moment serves as director of vinlightenment for Boisset Assortment. Learn her current piece, The best way to Calculate Energy in Dry Wine.




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