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Need advice for adding oak chips during clearing

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buttonsrtoys

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I'm making a Cabernet Sauvignon and missed adding the oak chips during fermentation. (It's a Costco double-kit and the bags were hiding under the second kit.) I just degassed but haven't added the clarifier (chitosan) yet.

I googled and found lots of conversations about adding oak chips during clearing, including adding the chips to water and microwaving to sanitize, but how should I proceed with the clarifier? Should I add it with the chips, or maybe add the chips now, and then do another rack and then add the clarifier?

I'm new to wine making, so any advice is welcomed.
 

Rocky

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Buttons, welcome to the forum and to winemaking.

A lot depends on what you plan to do from here forward. Do you plan to bulk age the wine, i.e. leave it in the carboy for up to a year before bottling? Adding oak to any of the kits is meant to mimic the effect of aging wine in oak barrels thereby achieving a taste that is reminiscent of an aged Cabernet. Also, I am assuming you really mean chips and not oak cubes. Chips are usually added during the initial fermentation step and discarded when moving to a secondary fermenter. Therefore, they are only in contact with the wine for about a week to 10 days. If one wants or needs more oak flavor in wine, oak cubes are added for a period of time depending on the intensity desired during clarifying or bulk aging. I like an oaky Cabernet Sauvignon so I keep them in bulk for at least 3 months.

In your case, I would add them now during clarification. They will eventually settle to the bottom and be left behind during the next racking. Additional clarifier should not be necessary although if it is, you can always add it. Remember to rinse the dust off the chips before adding them. I put them in a strainer or colander and run water over them for a 30 seconds or so. Good luck.
 

buttonsrtoys

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Rocky, thanks for the thoughts and the welcome.

Yes, they're oak chips (not cubes). To answer your question, I plan on bulk aging the wine in a carboy for at least three months. Are you suggesting I add the chips now during clearing and then consider cubes when bulk aging? I hadn't considered that and like an oaky Cab too.
 

tjgaul

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I'm not sure it's necessary to really sterilize the oak chips, but I don't like to take chances once the wine is beyond primary fermentation. I usually boil my chips in a small amount of water for a few minutes and then add the chips and the residual water to the wine. Typically, the chips soak up most of the water so mostly I am adding well hydrated chips to the batch. As an added bonus, the smell of oak chips simmering on the stove is very pleasing. Better than potpourri in my opinion.
 

StBlGT

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buttonsrtoys, the oak chips that the kit provides for the primary fermentation is going to give your wine a better mouthfeel, if you will, rather than an aged in the barrel feel. if you are looking for an oaked taste in your wine, i would highly recommend getting a pack of oak spirals (french for a lighter oak taste/american for a heavy oak taste). i believe that might be what you're looking for. i don't think the oak chips are going to be "enough" IMO. since you are bulk aging for 3 months, it will be perfect because the oak spirals usually give off all of their flavor around the 6 week range.
 
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GaDawg

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I add my oak cubes after clarifying. After clarifying you don't have to worry about the lees. In my experience the oak give up that goodness after about 6 weeks.
 

jumby

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buttonsrtoys, the oak chips that the kit provides for the primary fermentation is going to give your wine a better mouthfeel, if you will, rather than an aged in the barrel feel. if you are looking for an oaked taste in your wine, i would highly recommend getting a pack of oak spirals (french for a lighter oak taste/american for a heavy oak taste). i believe that might be what you're looking for. i don't think the oak chips are going to be "enough" IMO. since you are bulk aging for 3 months, it will be perfect because the oak spirals usually give off all of their flavor around the 6 week range.
How many spirals do you normally use and what toast?
 

StBlGT

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jumby, for most of my wines i will use the french medium toast spirals. i will use 1 in some and use both in others....depending on the varietal. but, with that said, it is very hard to over oak a wine with french oak. using american oak....now that can be another story. if you don't know, use 1 at a time and then take a sample. if you want more oak, add the other spiral. everyone has different tastes. good thing is, if bulk aging, you can add additional oak at any time (just add it after a fresh racking).
 

Turock

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French toast plus is a good option for Cab because it's such a bold wine. We like using staves because they are toasted the same way a barrel is toasted.
 

StBlGT

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turock, i have read many good things on the staves. i have acquired and purchased a handful of packs of the spirals. once i use them up, i may give the staves a try. i've been eyeing them up since last year, just haven't had a reason to order more oak yet. do you have any comparisons....spirals vs staves?
 

Turock

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We've used the spirals too and they do a good job also. It's been a while since I researched the different oak types but once I read about the staves, those are the ones we use now on our reds. Either Rocky or Running Wolf turned me onto the PLUS oak. Makes a big difference when you're oaking really robust reds. Don't be afraid to experiment to see what you like best. But for secondary oaking, you shouldn't use anything smaller than cubes because you get uneven roasting on chips. Chips are for primary fermentation as they give their flavor up very quickly--like within 7 days. You can leave a stave in your wine for up to 18 months, depending on how much oak you're looking for.
 

StBlGT

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sounds good. i think later in the year i will be ready and give them a try. thanks for the info..
 

jumby

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jumby, for most of my wines i will use the french medium toast spirals. i will use 1 in some and use both in others....depending on the varietal. but, with that said, it is very hard to over oak a wine with french oak. using american oak....now that can be another story. if you don't know, use 1 at a time and then take a sample. if you want more oak, add the other spiral. everyone has different tastes. good thing is, if bulk aging, you can add additional oak at any time (just add it after a fresh racking).
Do you sanitize them before adding them to your wine? Do you think it's a good idea to leave 1 in a 6 gallon batch of Super Tuscan for 3 months? Or should I add 2? I purchased the French medium toast. Thanks!
 

StBlGT

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I give them a quick dip in sanitizer....is it needed? Maybe not. But i like to be safe (especially in the bulk aging phase). I don't know how much oak you like so it's hard for me to say. I would suggest you just add 1 and let it give off the flavor (about 6 weeks)....then rack. If you want more, add the second one.....repeat above. Like i said, the french isn't too overpowering, so if you LOVE heavily oaked wines, maybe go for both right from the get go?
 

Turock

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You cannot sanitize wood. Don't worry about it. Just toss the oak in.

After the oak has been in the wine for a couple months, draw some wine off and taste it. If you want more oak flavor then leave it in for another month or two. Remove the oak when the flavor is to your liking.
 
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buttonsrtoys

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Just so I'm clear about oaking with spirals, cubes, or staves during bulk ageing, is this in addition to adding oak chips that came with the kit during fermentation (for kits that include chips)? Or are people forgoing chips during earlier stages and just oaking during bulk ageing?
 

cmason1957

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Most folks do both. The chips in primary fermentation and then extra added cubes or spirals during aging.

Those chips in the fermentation don't really add much oak to the mix. They do add tannins and help with the mouth feel and long term stability of the wine. I don't even really think of them as oak, even though they may have come from a tree.
 
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jburtner

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I like to add oak spirals cubes staves for ageing after i've got it ready to sit for three months. Right now I have put a couple spirals into a WE chardonnay that I just racked and sulfited. It's still on fine lees for 3months of battonage. I also just added oak cubes to another chardonnay that's also going to be on the lee's for a while after mlf. We love those oaky chardonnays so may add more once they clear and are ready to sit for another three months.

Cheers!
-johann
 

StBlGT

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I use both. Chips in primary and spirals during bulk.
 

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