Thomas Pellechia, Vivi’s resident wine industry veteran, contributes some information on the taste and affect of wood on wines. Enjoy the Wine Life!
In the most recent class of my Wine Chat series at Glenora Wine Cellars, in the Finger Lakes region, we explored wood and wine. My aim was to see whether or not people had a preference for the type of method used to integrate wood into winemaking.
We tasted oak barrel fermented wines, wines that had been fermented in stainless steel and aged in oak barrels, and wines that had been fermented and stored in stainless steel and then finished with a large “bag” of oak chips or powder dipped into the wine before bottling. The overwhelming preference was for the barrel fermented wines.
Most people felt that the creamy texture of barrel fermented wines was a lot more appealing than any other method, since it seemed to meld with rather than interrupt the taste of the wine. Plus, barrel-fermented wines took on a softer, creamier texture than their barrel aged counterparts. Barrel-fermentation as opposed to barrel-aged seemed to the group like the difference between something natural with something manufactured.
Overwhelmingly, the group consensus was that the wines that had been finished with an oak chip bag really seemed manufactured, plus the wood was overbearing. Even those in the class who regularly drink wines that are produced this way found that when compared with barrel fermentation or even barrel aged wines, the oak chip stuff simply is the worst buy, no matter that it is cheaper.
So, the class wanted to know, how does looking at the label help us decide how the wine was treated with wood? Well, sometimes you can’t tell , but more often than not there are clues. Here’s what to look for:
1. First look at price. A wine that costs under $10 and boasts on its label of “tannins from wood” or “wood finished” is likely to have never seen the inside of a barrel.
2. A word like “Reserve” on the label often means the wine had spent some period of time aging in oak. And often you will find out how long it was in oak by reading the back label.
3. Barrel-Fermented wines usually state so on the label.
About the Author
Thomas Pellechia is a contributing author to Vivi’s Wine Journal and has 21 years in the wine business. Thomas was formerly co-proprietor of is-wine and is the author of Garlic, Wine, and Olive Oil Historical Anecdotes and Recipes with another wine book in the works.
Thomas served as a wine maker at a prominent Finger Lakes vineyard for many years and has been writing about wine and food for 15 years. You can find his work published in Wine Enthusiast, Decanter, SlowFood Intl., Brandweek, Wines and Vines, Practical Winery, American Wine Society Journal and, of course, Vivi’s Wine Journal. He also writes two weekly newspaper columns in upstate NY and can be found chatting about wine at WineTalk.com.
Thomas Pellechia– This article is published with the express permission of the author and is copyrighted by the author. The author’s copyrights superceed the Creative Commons copyright that governs the rest of Vivi’s Wine Journal.