Differences between American and French oak

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Have you ever wondered what is the difference between the use of these oaks in the aging of wine? Why do some wines use French oak and others American oak?

Actually, the choice of one or the other will depend on each winery and, above all, on the character that you want to transmit to the wine. The quality of the wood of the barrels will play a very important role in the aging of the wine. In fact, its importance is such as important as the vineyard, the grape variety or the blending.

The barrels help to oxygenate the wine, in addition to providing texture and bouquet (aromas). For example, in the classification of a wine as Crianza, Reserva or Gran Reserva, the key is the time it has remained in the barrel, so the shortest time is Crianza, and the longest time is Gran Reserva.

And using american or french oak will play a fundamental difference is the bouquet. American oak barrels are more resistant and porous than French oak barrels. This means that the properties of the wood are transferred more easily and more quickly to the wine, and are ideal for reducing the astringency of some wines.

For its part, French oak wood is softer and much more wood is wasted in its manufacture, making it more expensive to obtain. Thus, it is not surprising that the price of a French oak barrel (approximately 800€) can double or triple that of an American oak barrel, around 300€. However, according to experts, its price is justified: by having finer pores, the French oak barrel gives the wine greater elegance by transmitting its attributes in a slow and balanced way.

Another aspect that must be taken into account is the aromas that we want to transmit to the wine. American oak provides a greater amount of aromas, including tropical or exotic notes such as coconut, as well as roasted aromas such as coffee, smoke, tobacco and cocoa. French oak, on the other hand, offers more delicate and subtle aromas: vanilla, honey, nuts and sweet and herbaceous spices (balsamic aromas). Their influence is therefore more balanced and elegant, which is why they are usually used in higher-end wines.

In any case, it is important that the time that the wine remains in the barrel adjusts to the type of wine, since, if they spend too much time in contact, the rough tannins of the wood would destroy the original aromas of the wine, losing all the essence. of this one. The right time will make the wine reach its best levels of quality and complexity.

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