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Oak wood

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

A wide variety of woods from acacia, eucalyptus, chestnut, cherry, palm, pine and cedar have been used to produce wine barrels since ancient times. Wooden barrels were hardly known in ancient Greece, but the Greek historian Herodotus (482-425 BC) reports of such in the city Babylon made from palm wood. It is considered fairly certain that the Celts Already two to a millennium before the era wooden barrels were used for transport and the Romans took over this artistry 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 with. In addition, the nature of the ring-shaped pores prevents liquids from entering the wood. This is ideal for the construction of all kinds of vessels, especially for barrels.

Affinity of oak and wine

Last but not least, oak wood has a natural affinity for wine. The French recognized this very early on and have been using it for centuries for the type of barrel created in Bordeaux Barrique, There are around 300 oak species worldwide, but only three taxonomic Quercus 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 summer oak or pedunculate oak (Quercus robur or pedunculata). The third is the American white oak (Quercus alba) with numerous species. As a rule, American oak yields more astringent and more aromatic wines than the European one. For the sake of completeness, the oak species Quercus suber should be mentioned, from whose bark the cork come.

Oak wood - oak tree and oak barrel

Production of oak barrels

Wood from at least 80 to 100 year old trees is used for the oak barrels. After completion, they will be the toasting (Barrel firing) subjected. A distinction is made between three groups of wooden phenols Barrique get into the wine. The primary ones are leached out directly, the secondary ones are formed chemically and microbially from the wood phenols, and thirdly there are those that are produced by breaking down the oak component lignin arise. The most important of these aromatic substances are Eugenole. furfural. lactones. tannins. terpenes and vanillin, Fine-pored woods release these substances slowly and in smaller quantities and coarse-pored wood quickly and in larger quantities. The grain size is expressed in French, for example, for fine-pored wood with "grain fin" and for coarse-pored wood with "grain gros".

Until the beginning of the 20th century, the oak wood came mainly from Poland, Latvia and Estonia. Today the woods come mainly from France and North America. The American oaks of the Quercus alba species grow mainly in the dry forests of eastern North America. The main manufacturing states are Arkansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. The wood has a distinctive perfumed Aroma. It is particularly suitable for intense 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. Oaks from Croatia (Slavonia), Romania, Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and Hungary are also increasingly used. Small quantities also come from Austria (Manhartsberg and Ybbstal in Lower Austria) and Germany.

The type of wood preparation in barrel construction plays a very important role. optimal Stave boards should be created in such a way that the annual rings are at right angles to the wine side and the marrow rays are parallel to it (the marrow rays lead from the core in a star shape to the outside towards the bark). With a different orientation of the marrow rays, the wine can diffuse outwards (evaporate). No consideration is given to the production of timber, here the so-called gate cut is used in order to have as little waste as possible. An alternative to building a barrel is splitting the trunk along the rays. As a result, the wood is less gas-permeable, which has an effect through the use of sulfur dioxide to a lesser extent.

This advantage is lost in part through planing. Since splitting is more expensive due to the amount of work and the large loss of wood, the so-called star cut (also mirror cut) is often used, 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 browning in extreme cases, significant charring or roasting, which is what is desired with barrel aging toasting,

Origin of suitable oak wood

French oak is considered the best worldwide due to its fine aromas and is most commonly used in Europe. The areas of origin are not too humid and the soil contains no iron. The two European oak species relevant for barrel construction occupy an area of over four million hectares (40,000 km²). France is by far the largest European supplier of oak wood. Every year from the Tonnelleries around 200,000 barrique barrels produced. The most common names below refer to the origin. However, since there is no AOP ( Appellation d'Origine Protégée ) for oak wood, one cannot deduce the exact origin from the name under which the woods are marketed. In addition, there is oak from the two regions of Jura and Burgundy, as well as from the Argonne forest near the Champagne. A specialty are barrels (wood mix) bound from woods of different origins.

Oak - Allier river in the Allier department and map with river course in France

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

Bois du Center : General term for the oak from central France, which can refer to products from different departments.

Cher : The wood is named after the department of the same name in central France, the forests are around the capital Bourges. The Alliers département borders to the south. The fine-grained wood is less tannic than that of Allier, so it produces milder wines.

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

Nièvre / Nevers : The wood is named after the Nièvre department or its capital Nevers, located on the Loire. The Allier département borders to the south. Here is also the appellation Pouilly-Fumé, One of the most famous forests is called Bertranges. The oak wood is also popular 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 tannic than Allier, which is one of the best. It is especially used 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 Allier department. 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 Lorraine region in north-eastern France on the western foothills of the Vosges. The very light, almost white wood is fine-pored and rich in tannins. Due to the large differences in height, there are somewhat different types of wood. It is particularly suitable for white wines from the Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc varieties.

Oak - Barrique cellar from the Château Mouton-Rothschild

Alternatives to the barrel

Wine making has long been an alternative to the relatively expensive and time-consuming barrel expansion in the New World Wood chips (Pieces of oak) and Staves (Oak slats) and special containers under the brand names rebarriQue and Stakvat used and / or aromatic essences added to the wine. In the EU, such techniques have so far only been allowed on a trial basis through exemptions. The trade agreement between the EU and the USA signed at the end of 2005 resulted in liberalization (see under wine law ). Within the EU, the addition to the wine is from oenological tannins (in solid form) and since 2007 the use of wood chips has also been permitted. See also under barrel and barrel,

Oak tree: by RegalShave from 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 : from MPW57 - Own work, public domain , link

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