It is believed that the Romans were the first to use barrels for wine storage. They considered them as a strong and convenient container for transportation. And the Gauls were the first to use oak barrels for wine storage. But having met each other by chance, oak and wine have formed such a close union that no modern technology and materials can destroy it.
Wine gets in the barrel at the stage of aging, which comes right after fermentation and can last from a few weeks to a few years. What role does oak play in this process? The liquid, coming into contact with the walls of the barrel, absorbs oak extracts, which add new notes to the wine.
During aging, the liquid evaporates (annually from 2 to 4.5% of volume), and the remaining beverage becomes richer and more complex.
Excessive evaporation should not be allowed, as the vacated space is filled with air, from contact with which the drink quickly oxidizes. Through a special sampling hole, the master occasionally refills the barrel with the wine of the same variety and quality.
Although contact with air during maturation is not welcome, in small doses it has a positive effect on the organoleptic properties of the beverage. Oxygen seeps into the barrel through the wood micro-pores, rivets, and technological holes. The oxidation reaction causes the wine to change:
- Tannins soften and the astringency of the final product decreases.
- Red wines get brick-like colors, while white ones become noticeably darker.
- Acidity decreases.
Fresh, punchy aromas give way to soft and ripe fruit tones. Thus, barrel aging makes the wine more complex and richer.
Not every wine needs such a method of aging. Traditionally red wines are friends with oak, but their relationship is different. Most white wines by virtue of their technology (they are fermented without pips and skins) “from birth” have no tannins. They are more fragile and usually mature in steel vats.
One of the main differences between wine, whiskey, cognac, Calvados, and classic moonshine is the many years of aging in wood barrels. Barrels can be made from a variety of woods. However, it has been found over time that almost all woods either have a negative effect on the quality by enriching it with undesirable components or unsuitable for long-term storage of liquids due to rotting. Only oak wood has high strength and lower resin content than other woods and does not produce excessively strong outside flavors.
Oak barrels are popular not only as a means for aging and storing wine or whiskey, they are also an incredible gift. A husband, brother, or father that makes his own drinks at home, will be deleted to own an oak barrel. The volume of the barrel is mostly limited by the available space. The small oak barrels can act as a decoration, while the big ones are perfect for creating homemade drinks that will be a shining jewel of any celebration.