Oak cubes vs spirals

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crushday

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I'm wondering if anyone has any comparative experience using oak cubes vs. spirals. Here's the reason behind the ask...

I just spent $150 on 10 packages of medium french oak spirals. As you know, packages come with two spirals. I typically, depending on variety, use one or two spirals per 6 gallon carboy during bulk aging. At times, I exchange the chips from some kits for spirals because of the clogging issues during racking caused by chips. Excluding the fermentation use, on average my $150 enhances 10 carboys as most of the time I use two per carboy.

At my local store, I can buy 10 pounds of medium toast french oak cubes for $150. I have noticed that when a wine kit includes oak cubes it's either 30gm or 60gm. A pound of cubes is approximately 450gm. 450gm x 10lb = 4500gm or 150 30gm packages of oak cubes.

This would tell me that for $150, I could oak 75 carboys if using 60gm of cubes which is equivalent to the maximum I've seen included in wine kits.

Question is: Is one oak spiral equivalent to 30gm of oak cubes? Do oak cubes leach the same amount of oak essence as a spiral?

What say you? What have I left out in my logic and/or math?
 

stickman

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According to StaVin 60g of cubes will give approximately 100% new Barrel impact for 5gal of wine. Comparing this to the StaVin 2" segments they recommend 196g for the same impact, so surface area must play some role from an efficiency and extract point of view. Probably the main question is how the finished wine tastes. I've used spirals a few times but not enough to make any conclusions comparing them to cubes.
 

NorCal

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I tried cubes once. I got harsher more astringent tannins, stronger oak from them than I get with the spirals. Maybe I put too much and it would fade in time, but it did not give me reason to switch away from spirals.
 

cmason1957

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I have used cubes almost exclusively. I am thinking of trying spirals, I to think they impart a fairly strong oakiness to the wine and I would like a little bit less oak and more of the other flavors that they can give. One thing I have used in the past that I really liked, but stopped, due to pricing issues, Midwest Supplies sells a product that is a mixture of French, American, and Hungarian oaks, in three different mixtures. I think that is my favorite thing to use, I may purchase some of each and try to replicate something like that.
 

stickman

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One thing I noticed on my last batch just recently bottled, it was aged a total of 17 months on 5 french oak staves, but it seemed like the oak was much more pronounced at 12 months than at the end of the 17 months. At the time, I thought I might be over oaking the wine and contemplated removing the staves, but ended up just leaving them ultimately thinking there wasn't much left to extract. The wine turned out fine. It's just another one of those wine making things that's not very intuitive.
 

Chuck E

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I tried cubes once. I got harsher more astringent tannins, stronger oak from them than I get with the spirals. Maybe I put too much and it would fade in time, but it did not give me reason to switch away from spirals.
Do you have notes on the quantity of cubes used? I have only used spirals.
 

skyfire322

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IIRC, spirals are around 3-4 oz but tend to give more oakiness due to the surface area.

I had dropped 4 oz of M+ French oak cubes in my Sangiovese and detected the slightest bit of oak flavor. I racked off, dropped a M+ French oak spiral and one month later it tasted like a campfire (I prefer my reds smoky). It died down after about six months in the bottle, but turned out pretty smooth.
 

CDrew

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So with no previous experience, I used 2.5 oz/5 gallons of Stavin cubes based on Morewine recs. In 60 gallons of wine. Honestly, I thank that's too much for the 2018 Zinfandel/Primitivo. I let it go 3 months and it tastes a bit over oaked now, but maybe in time will mellow to something more reasonable. Funny because at 2 months, it tasted about right, and I should have racked then.
For the heartier wines I made, Petite Sirah(15 gal) and Sirah(20 gal), it tastes about right, but even there, I'm going to de-emphasize the oak a bit next year. The Stavin cubes are very easy to use.

I like the learning experience, I just hope I don't have 30 gallons of over oaked Zinfandel. I don't want Chateau Pliewoood!
 

ibglowin

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Yea Zin can be a tough cookie to oak properly. I have used different oak adjuncts and have had some perfect and others Chateau Plywood. Now going a little lighter and using a 50/50 mix of American and French.
 

jsbeckton

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I’ve used both cubes and spirals and honestly think the biggest difference is the spirals are easily extracted without racking (I use fishing line). I haven’t noticed any difference in smoothness of the imparted flavor.

For me the ease of extraction just doesn’t justify the cost so I’m leaning towards trying to dial in a “base level” of oak cubes for each style (keeping good records) and from there will add a spiral or maybe just more cubes during aging as needed.

I’m aging about 3-4 years so am actually intentionally “over oaking” assuming that it will fade with time. Hopefully not overdoing it though!
 
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CDrew

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For myself, I'm using the Stavin calculator for this year. Will likely shoot for the 40% new oak range and see how it goes. For 2018, I used MoreWines recommendations, and while it's likely OK long term, I think it's too much for early drinking (which I am likely to do out of interest).

https://www.stavin.com/oak-dosage-calculators/


The only comparison I did was with Winestix. They are nice because it's 1 stix per carboy. I oaked 2 carboys with it this year and preliminary tasting suggests I prefer it to the cubes. The flavor is definitely more mellow.
 
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Desolus

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I've always used oak cubes because I can buy a crate of French oak (and pretty much anything else) from BBQ suppliers and it's easier to cut cubes than spirals. You can toast in your oven and char in a drum to whatever spec you want.

I've used everything from oak to persimmon to pear, you can get pretty creative.
 

Ignoble Grape

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So with no previous experience, I used 2.5 oz/5 gallons of Stavin cubes based on Morewine recs. In 60 gallons of wine. Honestly, I thank that's too much for the 2018 Zinfandel/Primitivo. I let it go 3 months and it tastes a bit over oaked now, but maybe in time will mellow to something more reasonable. Funny because at 2 months, it tasted about right, and I should have racked then.
For the heartier wines I made, Petite Sirah(15 gal) and Sirah(20 gal), it tastes about right, but even there, I'm going to de-emphasize the oak a bit next year. The Stavin cubes are very easy to use.

I like the learning experience, I just hope I don't have 30 gallons of over oaked Zinfandel. I don't want Chateau Pliewoood!
I was just tasting out in Carmel Valley - one of the wineries had 'lost' three barrels of Cabernet for 5 years!!! It hadn't turned to vinegar, something happened and it created a vacuum inside the barrels. They bottled it and were selling it as something of a 'bespoke' wine, one-off, that will never be duplicated. It was not, amazingly enough, over-oaked. It had mellowed over the years - earthy and plum flavors. At $66, I wasn't in the market, but it was tasty and truly unique.
 

Ignoble Grape

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I've always used oak cubes because I can buy a crate of French oak (and pretty much anything else) from BBQ suppliers and it's easier to cut cubes than spirals. You can toast in your oven and char in a drum to whatever spec you want.

I've used everything from oak to persimmon to pear, you can get pretty creative.
You can use BBQ wood? It's food-grade? I hadn't thought of that, but I bet it's cheaper than my 5 oz bags of oak chips from the wine store.
 

sour_grapes

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You can use BBQ wood? It's food-grade? I hadn't thought of that, but I bet it's cheaper than my 5 oz bags of oak chips from the wine store.
Be careful, though. Conventional wisdom is that you want to avoid red oak for winemaking. (Gives an off taste.) Meanwhile, plenty of folks use red oak for smoking meat.
 

CDrew

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I was just tasting out in Carmel Valley - one of the wineries had 'lost' three barrels of Cabernet for 5 years!!! It hadn't turned to vinegar, something happened and it created a vacuum inside the barrels. They bottled it and were selling it as something of a 'bespoke' wine, one-off, that will never be duplicated. It was not, amazingly enough, over-oaked. It had mellowed over the years - earthy and plum flavors. At $66, I wasn't in the market, but it was tasty and truly unique.
Lol. The infamous "lost" 3 barrels available to you, today only for a crazy price. I'll speculate when those 3 are sold, another 3 will suddenly be found! At $66 I would not be a buyer either. That's perfect wine, special occasion territory.
 

Desolus

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You can use BBQ wood? It's food-grade? I hadn't thought of that, but I bet it's cheaper than my 5 oz bags of oak chips from the wine store.
Given that you're going to be heating these woods to several hundred degrees F, yes, they can be food safe. But please for the love of all that is good check for each and every wood you use. Some even used in BBQ have toxic chemicals that will cause all kinds of distress
 
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