Here’s a question for you…what has a thousand names (barrique, bordelaise, piéce, pipe, barrica, feuilleté, botti, carato, hogsheads, puncheons, fuder, halbstück, to name a few), is an essential component to winemaking, and is also a good container for fun-loving simians? In the event the answer to my sphinx-esque question has eluded you, I have cleverly left a clue in the header photo as well as the name of the post. Obviously, I am referring to the all-important barrel…the wine kind…sans monkeys. As promised, this post is on “what’s goin’ on” in the winery. Right now, we are busy choosing the barrels in preparation for blendings. The impact of barrel choice in winemaking cannot be overstated- you could take the same starting wine, barrel it in two different ways, and have completely different resulting wines. Another question for you…just how does barrel choice affect the wine? (Psst- the answer is NOT hidden in the header or title- afraid you’ll have to read on…)
From the degree to which the barrels are toasted (think “roasted”, not “hammered”) to the percentage of wine barreled in a lot, there are many ways barrels can affect a blend. Toasting and forest of origin (where the oak for the barrels is grown) can alter the amount and type of tannins, volatile phenols (aromas), terpenes (essential oils) and lactones (flavors) present in the wine. The biggest, most obvious differentiator- the one most people know of- is that of American and French oak. American Oak (Quercus alba) and French Oak (Quercus patraea) differ in grain density, weight, and most importantly, phenolic contributions. American Oak usually imparts more “aggressive” qualities, thus, is usually paired with more powerful reds. However, depending on the coopers you work with and percentages used, American Oak can be used to develop subtle red fruit characters as well. So not only is the type of wood important, but the cooperage house of origin for the barrels as well.
A variety of barrels for a variety of wines
With respect to the barrels used at Naggiar for blending, we choose barrels based on the individual wine programs. For example, our Mistero is a fresh and fruity red wine that works well with fresher American Oak notes…and our go-to cooperage is AP John barrels. For something like our La Bohéme, we are looking for more subtly-integrated French Oak character, that Taransaud and D&J barrels gives us. With all of the different cooperages, ages of barrels, blends in barrels- our barrel room is basically one, big, beautiful Jenga set, where the game is to taste through all the different barrels for oak impact. Sounds like a lot more fun than a barrel full of fun-loving simians to me!
Anyone up for a game of wine Jenga?[jetpack_subscription_form]