Oak Experiment

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Jul 10, 2018
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I had been using medium-plus French Winestix on several batches of wine, but I was not happy with the outcome. This led me to do a little experiment with oak several months ago and I thought it might be of interest to others. The outcome surprised me.

I had made a red blend that was lightly oaked. When the wine was a little over a year old, I uncorked six bottles and added a single oak cube to each one, then corked them again. Three of the bottles received Stavin medium-plus Hungarian oak and three received Stavin medium-plus American oak. After two, four, and eight weeks, I opened a bottle of each and compared the effects of Hungarian oak to American oak. At two weeks, the oak impact was mild. At four weeks, the oak was much more prominent. At eight weeks, the oak became better integrated and started to fall back a little. That was no surprise. What did surprise me, though, was my oak preference. The American oak added nice caramel, smoky, and vanilla notes to the wine, as I expected. The Hungarian oak made the wine harsh, sour, and muted the wine's other flavors. After tasting the Hungarian oak, it made me realize these were the same notes I was getting from my French oak.

I've read that French oak provides more structure to wine, American oak adds more perfume, and Hungarian is somewhere in between. I've always bought French oak, thinking I was getting the best quality oak. After my experiment, I realize that I prefer the impact of American oak. I'm happy to be surprised, because I think my future wine will more closely match my tastes.

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