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Oak wood

chêne (F)
quercia (I)
roble (ES)
oak wood (GB)
carvalho (PO)
eik (N)

Since antiquity, various types of wood from the tree species acacia, eucalyptus, chestnut, cherry, palm, pine and cedar have been used for the production of wine barrels. In ancient Greece, wooden barrels were barely known, but the Greek historian Herodotus (482-425 BC) reports of such in the city Babylon made of palm wood. It is considered pretty sure that the Celts Two to a millennium BC, wooden barrels were used for transport and the Romans took over this artifice from them. The most suitable wood for wine storage or the Barrique but that is the oak. It is one of the hardest woods, is tough, very durable and still easy to work. In addition, the way through the wood is denied by the nature of the annular pores fluids. This is ideal for the construction of vessels of all kinds, especially for barrels.

Affinity of oak and wine

Last but not least, oak wood has a natural affinity for wine. The French have recognized this very early on and have been using it for centuries for the barrel type created in Bordeaux Barrique, Worldwide there are about 300 species of oak, but only three to taxonomic Genus Quercus counting white oak species are used for the wooden barrels. Two of them are growing in Europe. This is the winter oak, holm oak or sessile oak (Quercus sessiliflora or petraea), as well as the Sommereiche or pedunculate oak (Quercus robur or pedunculata). The third is the American white oak (Quercus alba) with numerous species. As a rule, the American oak wood produces stronger astringent and more aromatic wines than the European one. For completeness, the oak species Quercus suber is mentioned, from the bark of the cork come.

Oak wood - oak tree and oak barrel

Production of oak barrels

The oak barrels use wood from trees that are at least 80 to 100 years old. After completion, they will be the toasting (Cup burn) subjected. It is differentiated into three groups of wood phenols, which in the Barrique get into the wine. The primary ones are leached directly, the secondary ones are formed from the wood phenols chemically and microbially, and third there are some which are produced by dismantling the oak wood component lignin arise. Among the most important of these aromatic substances count Eugenole. furfural. lactones. tannins. terpenes and vanillin, Fine-pored woods give these substances slowly and in lesser amounts and coarse-pored quickly and in greater quantities. The grain size is expressed in French for example in a fine-pored wood with "grain fin" and in a coarse-pored wood with "grain gros".

Until the beginning of the 20th century, oak came mainly from Poland, Latvia and Estonia. Today, the woods come mainly from France and North America. The American oaks of the species Quercus alba grow mainly in the dry forests of eastern North America. The main producing states are Arkansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. The wood has a pronounced, perfumed Aroma. It is particularly suitable for flavorful red wines from Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah or Tempranillo (Rioja). In addition to the country of origin, it is often used in Australia and in Europe, especially in Spain. Increasingly, oak trees from Croatia (Slavonia), Romania, Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and Hungary are used. Small quantities also come from Austria (Manhartsberg and Ybbstal in Lower Austria) and Germany.

The type of wood processing in the barrel construction plays a very important role. optimal Stave boards should be generated so that the annual rings are perpendicular to the wine side and the medullary rays are parallel to it (the medullary rays lead from the core star-shaped to the outside to the bark). In a different orientation of the medullary rays, the wine can diffuse outward (evaporate). In the production of lumber is thereby taken no consideration, here the so-called Gattercut is applied to have as little waste. An alternative in barrel construction is the splitting of the trunk along the medullary rays. As a result, the wood is less permeable to gas, which is due to a smaller extent necessary sulfur dioxide use.

But this advantage is lost in part by the planing again. Since a splitting is more expensive due to the workload and the large wood loss, often the so-called star cut (also mirror cut) is applied, which takes place along the medullary rays. When drying the staves, the water content of the staves is reduced from 45% to 15%. In order to be able to shape the staves accordingly, the half-bound barrel is heated over an open fire at a heat of approx. 200 ° Celsius. This leads to a tanning to extreme carburization or roasting, the desired in Barrique expansion toasting,

Origin of suitable oak wood

The French oak is considered to be the best in the world due to its fine aromas and is the most widely used in Europe. The areas of origin are not too humid and the soils contain no iron. The two European oak species relevant to the barrel occupy more than four million hectares (40,000 km²). This makes France by far the largest European supplier of oak wood. Every year here are from the Tonnelleries produces around 200,000 barrique barrels. The most common names listed below refer to the origin. However, since there is no AOP ( Appellation d'Origine Protégée ) for oak wood, one can not derive the exact origin from the name under which the woods are marketed. In addition, there are still oak from the two regions of Jura and Burgundy, as well as from the Argonner forest near Champagne. A specialty are wood barrels of different origin bound barrels (wood mix).

Oak - River Allier in the department of Allier and map with river in France

Allier : named after the river of the same name (a tributary of the Loire) in central France. Here is the appellation Saint-Pourçain, To the north, the department of Nièvre, which is also important for oak wood, adjoins. The particularly fine-pored Allier oak is considered the highest quality. The rather less present tannins have a pronounced, sweet taste of vanilla. The best forest forests are Dreuille, Gros Bois and Tronçais (see below). In addition to the general name Allier the woods are also marketed under the name of these forests. By far the most commonly used oak wood is equally well suited for reds and whites.

Bois du Center : Common name for oak wood from central France, which may refer to products from different départements.

Cher : The wood is named after the eponymous department in central France, the forests are located around the capital Bourges. South borders the department of Alliers. The fine-grained wood is less tanninhaltige than that of Allier, thus providing milder wines.

Limousin : The name of this oak wood is derived from the eponymous region (landscape) in central France west of the Massif Central. It includes the départements of Corrèze, Creuse and Haute-Vienne. The extensive forest area connects southwest to the department of Allier. The granite, clay and limestone containing soils provide a large-pored wood with fewer flavors, the rich tannins are triggered very quickly. This results in strongly astringent wines. It is mainly used for brandies like Armagnac and cognac used to a lesser extent for powerful red wines from for example Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache Noir ( Garnacha Tinta ) Syrah and Zinfandel,

Nièvre / Nevers : The wood is named after the département of Nièvre or its Nevers capital lying on the Loire. South borders the department of Allier. Here is the appellation Pouilly-Fumé, One of the most famous forests is called Bertranges. The oak wood is also happy for the barrel type pièce used. It has medium-fine pores that release the tannin relatively slowly. The wood is soft and sweet but a little tannierier than Allier, which makes it one of the best. It is especially recommended for wines from Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignan Noir ( mazuelo ), Grenache Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and Syrah used.

Tronçais : The wood comes from the forest of the same name in the north of the department of Allier. It is particularly fine-pored and rich in tannins and is particularly suitable for red wines Pinot Noir (Blue Burgundy) and white wines from the grape varieties Chardonnay and Pinot gris (Gray burgundy).

Vosges : The wood comes from the department of the same name in the north-east of France Lorraine region on the western foothills of the Vosges. The very bright, almost white wood is fine-pored and rich in tannins. Due to the large differences in height, however, there are slightly different types of wood. It is particularly suitable for white wines from the varieties Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.

Oak wood barrique cellar from Château Mouton-Rothschild

Alternatives to the barrel

As an alternative to the relatively expensive and elaborate Barrique expansion are in the New World for some time in the winemaking Wood chips (Oak pieces) and Staves (Oak slats) as well as special containers under the brand names rebarriQue and Stakvat used and / or the wine also added aromatic essences. Within the EU, such techniques have so far only been allowed experimentally by way of exemption. The trade agreement between the EU and the US, signed at the end of 2005, resulted in liberalization (see wine law ). Within the EU, the addition to the wine is from oenological tannins (in solid form) and since 2007 also allowed the use of wood chips. See also below barrel and barrel,

Oak Tree: from RegalShave on Pixabay
Allier River: by Jean-Pol GRANDMONT - Own Work, CC BY 3.0 , Link
Allier Map: from Boerkevitz , CC BY-SA 3.0 , Link
Barrique Cellar : by MPW57 - own work, public domain , link

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