Quantcast

Oak Comparison Results: French / Hungarian / American

Wine Making Talk

Help Support Wine Making Talk:

JimInNJ

Senior Member
Joined
Jan 3, 2018
Messages
106
Reaction score
66
I have some preliminary results from one of the experiments I'm running on my 2018 Dornfelder.

The wine was fermented with BDX, D80 and RP15 yeasts and kept separate until after MLF was complete. Some of each was set aside for a yeast comparison experiment. The rest was blended, then divided among four half gallon jugs. Three of the jugs received 6 grams of oak cubes while the fourth received none. After 11 weeks we racked off of the oak and did the tasting which is being reported here.

The French, Hungarian and American oak was all M+ Stavin cubes purchased from More Wine in 2018. When I opened the packages I was surprised by how different they looked. The Hungarian cubes were varying in size and mostly larger than the others, while the French and American were fairly consistent in size. It also appeared that the interpretation of M+ toast varied considerably from country to country. I did not make a note at the time as to which appeared darker or lighter, but the next time I open them I will try to remember to provide an update. I have a suspicion that the differences we perceived in our tasting were influenced as much by variability in toast level as by oak origin.

Naked: All about the fruit. Cassis, Dark Cherry, Plum/Prune, possibly Blackberry. Somewhat angular.

French: Dominant toasted oak. A bit of hardwood camp fire. Spice. Too much oak. At a low level this might be perfect in our Cab Franc.

Hungarian: Subtle, Earthy, Mellow, Finished, impression of greater maturity. Nice oak level.

American: Green Wood / Sappy, Respects Fruit. Best expresses our expectations for Dornfelder. Three quarters as much oak may be ideal.

Overall there was a preference for the oaked wines over the naked. The oaked versions were less fruity, with the cassis mostly disappearing while cherry remained, but they were more balanced and mature. Surprisingly to us, the Hungarian and French were the most "what we expect red wine to taste like" but they lost the Dornfelder character, while the American retained it nicely.

I'll continue to keep these separate for a few more months until we decide to blend and bottle, and then I'll bottle one or two of each separately for future comparison.
 
Last edited:

Ajmassa

just a guy
Joined
Oct 25, 2016
Messages
3,872
Reaction score
3,582
Location
S. Jersey/Philadelphia area
Fantastic job. Thanks for taking the time post your notes.

As far as the country’s toast differences, I’m thinking the shade of the oak also plays a big part. And American is typically going to appear darker than the French
 

CabEnthusiast

Banned
Joined
Nov 22, 2018
Messages
64
Reaction score
10
I am actually surprised by how dominant the french oak was, given that french oak is supposed to be softer than American oak which is well known supposedly for being strong and potent in flavor, and contributing a lot of vanilla and or coconut flavors in beer and wine.

I typically have a preference for hungarian. I use medium toast french spirals in lambic beers though.
 

Ajmassa

just a guy
Joined
Oct 25, 2016
Messages
3,872
Reaction score
3,582
Location
S. Jersey/Philadelphia area
I am actually surprised by how dominant the french oak was, given that french oak is supposed to be softer than American oak which is well known supposedly for being strong and potent in flavor, and contributing a lot of vanilla and or coconut flavors in beer and wine.

I typically have a preference for hungarian. I use medium toast french spirals in lambic beers though.
I had the same thought. Goes to show ya how different varietals are affected differently. Initially i only used American medium spirals in my bolder reds but wasn’t loving the results. I didn’t feel they helped accentuate the existing profile. Kinda just inserted itself into it- if that makes sense.
Now playing with French adjuncts and also a Hungarian barrel. Jury’s still out
 

CabEnthusiast

Banned
Joined
Nov 22, 2018
Messages
64
Reaction score
10
I had the same thought. Goes to show ya how different varietals are affected differently. Initially i only used American medium spirals in my bolder reds but wasn’t loving the results. I didn’t feel they helped accentuate the existing profile. Kinda just inserted itself into it- if that makes sense.
Now playing with French adjuncts and also a Hungarian barrel. Jury’s still out
Yeah, Im still not sure what im going to use with the next crop that I get. I might buy some french,hungarian and american barrels and try them all.
 

Boatboy24

No longer a newbie, but still clueless.
Joined
Mar 18, 2012
Messages
14,000
Reaction score
10,704
Location
DC Suburbs
Nice! Thanks for posting. I'll be curious to see how these change over time.
 

FTC Wines

Senior Member
WMT Supporter
Joined
Apr 19, 2009
Messages
1,333
Reaction score
388
Location
N. Ft. Myers , Fl
Wow Jim I wish I had your taste buds! Best I can do is I like it/I don’t like it. LOL. I have 3 Hungarian barrels and use American med toast spirals. Can’t tell a difference. Keep us posted. Roy
 

JimInNJ

Senior Member
Joined
Jan 3, 2018
Messages
106
Reaction score
66
First off, thanks for all of the words of encouragement. And I agree with all of the above comments, especially regarding the surprising intensity of the French oak.

If this had been a blind tasting I probably would have assumed that the French and Hungarian were the same origin but different toast levels. They were very similar, but the French had a fine-furniture / hardwood-campfire aroma added on top. A higher toast level could explain the greater intensity.

I might have recognized the American, but would have said it was a lower toast level then the others. I'm wondering now if what we called "Green Wood / Sappy" might have been called "Coconut / Dill" by someone else. I'll try to look for that in the future. Interesting that Vanilla did not show up in any of our descriptions -- probably just too hard to notice in the Dornfelder.

One thing that went through my mind during the tasting was that much of the character of the French seemed to come from the toasting of the wood, much of the character of the Hungarian from the aging (we called it earthy, but musty or leathery also fit), and the American from the wood itself.

Re taste buds: We had one taster who could only tell the oaked from the unoaked and had a preference for the latter. One who could rank them by preference, but without words to describe the differences. And two who could confidently describe the differences and who's descriptions were mostly in agreement. Ultimately, the most useful comment is probably a confident "I like this one better than that one."

Now I think I'm gonna go find those cubes and see if the appearance matches up at all with my impression of toast levels.
 
Last edited:

JimInNJ

Senior Member
Joined
Jan 3, 2018
Messages
106
Reaction score
66
I had some Medium French, so I included that in the picture too.
IMG_20190123_234259.jpg
The American that I said tasted the lightest looks the darkest, exactly as Ajmassa5983 predicted. Hungarian and French almost identical.
 
Last edited:

baron4406

Supporting Members
WMT Supporter
Joined
Jan 29, 2017
Messages
199
Reaction score
114
Strange results for sure, but interesting none the less. Thanks!
 
Joined
Jan 29, 2019
Messages
3
Reaction score
0
I have been experimenting with oak and NOW other woods; I found this Thesis on google, a student from university of Auckland used wood from different trees, including oak. Some New Zealand trees too,
11 weeks is too long a time, I toasted wood and infused 5 litres Pinot noir for 2 weeks and the effect was strong enough for me to either reduce the amount of wood or the time.
Subtle is the key. If your wine is “pretty good” then the wooding is needed only to round out the flavours, try to achieve a FULL mouth feel, taste
 

Bill McNab

Member
Joined
Nov 4, 2018
Messages
62
Reaction score
29
I have some preliminary results from one of the experiments I'm running on my 2018 Dornfelder.

The wine was fermented with BDX, D80 and RP15 yeasts and kept separate until after MLF was complete. Some of each was set aside for a yeast comparison experiment. The rest was blended, then divided among four half gallon jugs. Three of the jugs received 6 grams of oak cubes while the fourth received none. After 11 weeks we racked off of the oak and did the tasting which is being reported here.

The French, Hungarian and American oak was all M+ Stavin cubes purchased from More Wine in 2018. When I opened the packages I was surprised by how different they looked. The Hungarian cubes were varying in size and mostly larger than the others, while the French and American were fairly consistent in size. It also appeared that the interpretation of M+ toast varied considerably from country to country. I did not make a note at the time as to which appeared darker or lighter, but the next time I open them I will try to remember to provide an update. I have a suspicion that the differences we perceived in our tasting were influenced as much by variability in toast level as by oak origin.

Naked: All about the fruit. Cassis, Dark Cherry, Plum/Prune, possibly Blackberry. Somewhat angular.

French: Dominant toasted oak. A bit of hardwood camp fire. Spice. Too much oak. At a low level this might be perfect in our Cab Franc.

Hungarian: Subtle, Earthy, Mellow, Finished, impression of greater maturity. Nice oak level.

American: Green Wood / Sappy, Respects Fruit. Best expresses our expectations for Dornfelder. Three quarters as much oak may be ideal.

Overall there was a preference for the oaked wines over the naked. The oaked versions were less fruity, with the cassis mostly disappearing while cherry remained, but they were more balanced and mature. Surprisingly to us, the Hungarian and French were the most "what we expect red wine to taste like" but they lost the Dornfelder character, while the American retained it nicely.

I'll continue to keep these separate for a few more months until we decide to blend and bottle, and then I'll bottle one or two of each separately for future comparison.
 

Bill McNab

Member
Joined
Nov 4, 2018
Messages
62
Reaction score
29
Gentlemen,
Thank you so much for your research and willingness to share details.
My experience , based on 40 years of winemaking with French, Hungarian and American Oak has been the following.
My preference overall has been for Hungarian Oak followed by French then American which I found to be very harsh, dependent on the wine in question and contact time of course.
My one preference using American was in conjunction with Baco Noir many years ago in Canada.
During the 1980's in Canada ( Niagara Falls area ) the Government paid all the grape growers in that area several thousand $ per acre to uproot all French hybrids and Labrusca types. They were replaced by Vinifera grapes which really boosted the reputation of Canadian wines in European tasting competitions. So my Baco experience was in the 1980 time frame.
My vote is for Hungarian.
Thanks again for your info.
 

Latest posts

Top