I want to experiment with oak, so I've been re-reading the oak barrel
chapter in Pambianchi's "Techniques in Home Winemaking". Barrels are
too big a step for me, so I skimmed until I got to the part about oak
chips. He says that oak chips, "do not add any significant amount of
tannins, and as such, cannot be used for ageing wine."
I don't understand this. If wine takes up tannins in the oak of
barrels, why would it not take up tannins in exactly the same oak that
was ground up into chips or sawdust? Is it a question of contact time?
Pambianchi recommends 1-2 weeks, and I know that barrel ageing occurs
over months or years. So would the wine take up tannin from oak chips
over several months? Is there a downside to this?
Finally is there a difference between oak tannin and grape tannin (from
the packages for sale at homebrew shops)?
Well that's simply wrong! Oak chips will definitely add tannin to wine, up
until the point they are completely extracted. That may take a number of
The difference between aging on oak chips in a carboy and barrel aging is
the slow infusion of oxygen through the staves which softens the wine over
time. Carboys are not permeable in that way.
Do not attempt to mimic that diffusion by simply leaving headspace in your
carboys! It's _not_ the same at all. You'd get an entirely different
effect, and I assure you that you wouldn't like it.
odd that you mention this, as i have some red wine i've left in a carboy for
1 yr and am about to transfer and bottle, i used some oak chips and instead
of leaving them for a couple of weeks as the kit instructed i left them for
the entire year, and there is definately a profound oak 'aged' flavor. I
think the reason that most people recommend against it is that it takes a
long time, I dont think you'd find the same results using chips for only a
Then my reds have been a happy accident for years. To be honest it may
have more to do with what he is recommending as the process. I disagre
with that minimal contact time, you do leach most of the flavor out in
a few weeks but it's surely not hurting anything to leave them in there
until close to bottling; there is no good reason (other than excessive
oakiness) to pull them out quickly. There are other things you get
from oak contact, it's not just tannin. I have used chips, beans (look
like cubes) and the sawdust.
Here are some recomendations for starting out:
Don't use the sawdust, it's impossible to toast as far as I am
If you like Australian reds, use American oak and make sure it's
toasted. Light to medium toast are good starting points, no toast,
heavy and extra heavy are a bit on the fringes. (It's unusual for a
winemaker to put good wine in an untoasted barrel, so untoasted would
be odd from that perspective. Heavy and extra heavy is often closer to
charred and that is more for hard liqour than wine. You are trying to
emulate the flavors from wine barrels.)
It's much easier for the vendor to control the toasting of beans, since
they are of a uniform size, so they will be more consistent.
That said, they are several times more expensive and chips are not
inferior, only different. They are a good starting point. Bigger is
better, if it looks like shavings I would not use it. The bulk of the
chips should be at least 1/2" in size.
I use about 20 to 30 grams per 5 gallons US on a white, 75 to 125 g on
a red. That's a LOT of oak, but it's what I like. (I like Australian
reds like Jacobs Creek Cab/Shiraz and Wolfs Blass (sp?)Yellow Label.)
Start off with 1/3 of that, you can always add more. (100 g of oak
chips is about a cup for reference.)
Remember some of the initial oak flavor subsides over time, so don't
get paranoid if it tastes a litte to much of oak.
My oak goes in after the first rack, the wine is mostly clear. It
stays in several months.
Hope that helps.
He says that oak chips, "do not add any significant amount of
Another thing I'd do is add a range of oak toasts to your wine. I
think that this more closely emulates a barrel in that the outer most
surface of the barrel is the darkest toast while subsequent layers of
the barrel represent lighter toasts. I haven't developed proportions
though, I just added a single toast to one of mine and thought the
effect wasn't enough.
I've seen in other places that oak chips are completely extracted
within about 2 weeks, while oak beans (like Stavin) take several
months. Tom, can you clarify if you meant beans or chips i your post?
Rule of thumb:
white wine: 0,5 - 1 gram of chips per liter, at least three weeks to three
months, then rack off
red wine: 1 - 3 grams per liter, at least 4 to 5 weeks to 5 months, then
white wine: maximum 10 % toasted
red wine: maximum 40 % toasted
white wine: only if wine is ferm enough (not too light)
red wine: firm reds: double quantity
How long? Taste!
alcohol under 10,5% ? No oak!
Give oaked wine time to mature
(my wife made little cotton bags, that are easy to get out)
Toasting: hemicellulose at 140 C gives caramel; lignin mildly toasted gives
fenol aldehydes, such as vanillin; heavily toasted gives smokey aroma.
Oak tannins "mature" faster than grape tannins because they are less
condensed. Oak tannins plus oxygen, plus copper, iron, manganese
releases oxygen, that reacts with alcohol to form acetalaldehyde, which
reacts with alcohol to form diethylacetal, that gives a delicate character
to your wine and leads to a flowery nose.
The cis-isomere of Lactones in heavily toasted American oak "makes"
Bourbon. No American oak? No Bourbon!
"Erroll Ozgencil" schreef in bericht
I have more experience with "beans" than chips, and still more with barrels.
I've also played around with Innerstaves and most recently with Vintage
Alternatives' "barrel replacements". Not bad - but not the same as a new
barrel. Still, at $800+ for new French barrels, the alternatives are
starting to look pretty attractive.
Be careful with the oak chips.
I left a merlot in carboy with oak chips for several months and it came
out way tannic. It dissipated a bit with age (1 year+), but still was
overwhelming to our taste. Finally, had to fine twice with gelatin to
get it down to a desirable level.
I think I know more about what oak does and how to proceed now. It
looks like Pambianchi was talking about his process and not the
physical properties of oak.
Thank you for all the advice; I've incorporated it into my plan. I'll
be oaking a Sauvignon Blanc (about 1g/L, light toast no sawdust) for a
short time. The idea here is to educate my palate, so I'll split the
batch and see how oak affects the wine in a side by side comparison.
My question about oak tannin had more to do with mead. I now intend to
split a batch of mead and oak it for a long time (same quantity and
preparation as the Sauv Blanc, but leave it in up to a year).
FWIW, I recommend that you get the oak into the fermenter itself and carry
it through into bulk aging until it tastes slightly overoaked, then rack the
wine off the oak and lees. The fermentation tends to "polish" the rough
edges off the oak and the flavors become better integrated in the finished
product. Of course that makes it trickier to split the batch.
The reason for the time difference is the time it takes for the wine to
soak through the beans/chips/sawdust. The more surface area vs.
volume, the quicker the wine can get in and extract as much as it can.
So sawdust is the fastest, followed by chips, followed by beans.
I've understood that extraction is complete about the same time the oak
becomes "waterlogged" and some of it sinks to the bottom of the carboy.
Keeping it in longer than that doesn't have a material effect on the
wine, from what I understand.
Finally, I was listening to a seminar about the use of barrels given by
a successful commercial winemaker, and they stated that it's their
opinion that oxygenization of wine through barrel staves is not what he
believes happens. In the barrel staves, you get wine soaking into the
wood some distance, though not all the way through. This sets up a
wine-air interface, with the wood acting as catalyst for any number of
reactions, not the least of which is evaporation of wine out of the
barrel. You of course get extraction from the wood as well. His point
is that in any properly contained barrel, opening the bung always shows
some level of vacuum inside, signifying that material is leaving the
barrel more than material is entering the barrel. I say this FWIW, but
whether it's oxygenization or the creation of a long term wine-air
interface within the staves that's really happening, beans/chips/dust
won't allow this to occur, and that's the difference between adding oak
via barrel or not.
I see no evidence to support the catalytic effect he alludes to, and all the
rest amounts to a distinction without a difference.
There is indeed a partial vacuum created in the barrel as water and alcohol
leave through the staves. According to what I've read, that headspace
formed is oxygen depleted compared to air. Whether that is due to the in
situ degassing of the wine's carbon dioxide, or to some other effect is
unclear to me.
Perhaps catalyst was the wrong word. I think his point was that it was
a very special interface, with all three components (wine, air, wood)
available for more interesting chemical reactions than if just two of
them were available. Mind you, he didn't give a lot of science behind
his talk (it wasn't meant to be - it was a 90 minute talk-and-sample
type presentation, not a dissertation), so again, FWIW.
Also, were the headspace low-oxygenated due to CO2 degassing, its
interesting to ponder how much has to be leaving through the staves for
there to still be a vacuum.
Could you elaborate a little on the thinking behind the practice of adding
oak chips into the fermenter itself? I assume it's an attempt to simulate
the practice of barrel fermentation. Obviously the oak chips are present
during MLF as well and the practice of sur lees aging. Specifically are you
aware of any real evidence of improvement over, for example, adding the oak
chips once primary fermentation is completed. If I understand you correctly
you're suggesting adding the oak chips as soon as you innoculate the must
As I've mentioned before, I add oak chips to spent barrels. I feel this
gives me the advantage of traditional barrel aging without frequent
replacement while still benefitting from the oakiness imparted by chips. As
you say, French oak and other suitable alternatives are getting very pricey.
I cant detail what the science is behind the phonomenom, but I have
noticed that adding the Oak from the beginning makes the Oak more
intergrated into the wine. I used to add the Oak after "Primary"
fermentation and noticed a wood plank taste that just seemed over powering.
Tom had suggested to add it from the beginning and I tried this method and
now prefer the results. HTH
Fermenting wine is actually a liquid in transition, from a sugar-water
solution to an alcohol-water solution, as well as all the biological
effects of the life-cycle of the yeast occurring over that time.
Alcohol will solvent certain elements that sugar won't, and vice-versa,
and I think (without proof) the addition early allows for a more
complete/complex/better integrated flavor because of the variation in
the wine over this time.
That's only part of it. The action of the fermentation seems to fine the
harsh tannins from the wood in situ.
Wines that are barrel fermented in new oak taste different (and better) than
wines that are tank fermented and then aged in new oak. My suggestion is a
logical extension of that observation.