Oak Stix experiment

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Have ya determined which Oak type and toast you prefer in which Reds?
I'm using Hungarian cubes in neutral barrels, and the Hungarian (cubes & stix) is the current winner is the experimental carboys.

Last fall I experimented with American vs. French fermentation oak, in 2 identical Merlot batches. I preferred the fruit the American produced -- the French was a bit sour. It tasted good (for a totally green wine) but I liked the American better.

Next fall I plan to use American for fermentation and Hungarian for bulk aging in neutral barrels, and in carboys.
 
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Have ya determined which Oak type and toast you prefer in which Reds?
Overall, Hungarian medium toast. However, there is no "this is what I want 100% of the time". Some grapes seem to intermix better with different oaks. Also, I'm using medium toast cubes and a mix of medium/medium plus in the oak stix. It's not 100% equal comparison, something I did not realize until now.

I'm planning to purchase American medium toast AND heavy toast for the fall. I'm considering further oak experiments next year -- if I have 4 carboys of 2nd run, doing one with Hungarian medium toast, one with American medium toast, one with Hungarian medium toast + American heavy toast, and the last with American medium toast + American heavy toast. I'm doing most testing with 2nd run wines, so if a carboy turns out badly, I've lost very little monetarily.

EDIT: while this appears to be a duplication of my previous post, yesterday's tasting made me consider more factors.
 
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Yesterday's tasting was a surprise, and not a good one.

All 4 carboys tasted "lesser" than the previous tasting a month before. If they tasted like this all along, I'd be extremely disappointed.

I went into more detail in my update to the Oak Stix Experiment post (scroll to the bottom), but the short answer is that I believe that all 4 carboys are at a down point in the life cycle. The 4 carboys are the same wine, but with different oaks -- they all seem to have "declined" at the same time (well, they are the same wine), but the tastes are different, which makes sense as they contain different oak adjuncts.

I do not believe there are any real problems with the wines.

We'll taste again in 3 or 4 weeks. If my supposition is correct, the wines will taste more like they did a month ago.

Yesterday my son & I discussed combining the carboys before bottling, but I've decided against this. I haven't discussed it with him yet, but will do so this afternoon when we bottle his wine. I'm not going to get disagreement, as he's enjoying this as much as I am. 🙂

This experiment needs to extend beyond bottling -- so I intend to bottle them separately and continue tastings every 3 months for at least a year, post bottling.

This experiment began as a testing of @Mike - Next Level Oak's product, it's grown beyond that and is worth continuing to its logical conclusion.


At this point I am very satisfied with Mike's product. The comparison between the Hungarian oak cubes and oak stix is fairly close, and differences are explained by the oak grown in different forests. When all is done I may prefer one over the other in direct comparison, but either wine is pleasing.

Removing the oak from the 3 carboys containing the oak stix is literally just pulling the stopper + oak stix out, topping up, and inserted a vented bung. For the oak cubes? I have to rack the wine off the cubes, then rack back into a carboy, topup, and insert a vented bung. The oak stix win, hands down, on the "convenience" ticket.

Currently I'm planning to end Phase 1 (oak) around the beginning of September. We'll let the carboys rest, undisturbed for 4 to 6 weeks, then bottle. I'd like to bottle before my new CA grapes arrive in mid-October, but we'll have to see how that works out.
 
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For numerous reasons, the planned tasting for early August didn't happen. Nothing bad, just that life happens and other things take priority.

Tonight I tasted the wines solo, so the notes are just mine.

WOW! All 4 wines are totally different from 7 weeks ago. I figured last tasting was a downturn in the cycle, and this tasting proves. it. I am very pleased with all 4 wines. And yes, which is "best" has changed again.
 
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My son & I conducted our final tasting today, and the results were similar to my last (solo) tasting. I've written my conclusions to the experiment, in a new section at the end of the post.

Experiment Goals
  1. Determine the duration required to impart a pleasing oak character to each wine
  2. Compare the results between the test samples to see how the oak stix compare to the cubes
  3. Determine if there is a different in the best duration for each of the oak stix types
  4. Determine which sample(s) I like better, to help determine what type(s) of oak I'll use in the future
The results are:

1. This is a difficult one to judge, as folks have their own thresholds and likes in oak character. In re-reading our tasting results, it appears that most oak character was imparted by the end of the 4th month. Changes in the wine after that are the effects of bulk aging.

2. During the test, there were numerous differences between the batches, but after re-reading the tasting notes, my assessment is that the four batches are equivalent, e.g., I'd equate 1 wine stix kit to 2 oz medium toast oak cubes.

3. My assessment is that there was no significant difference in the best duration for any of the samples. This makes sense, given that the result of Goal #2 is that the kits are equivalent to 2 oz oak cubes.

4. This personal goal is what I expected. Previous taste tests of other wines led me towards Hungarian oak, and this test confirmed it. This is a personal preference so it may not help anyone else.

Additional Conclusion - The many changes in the wines during the test period was a surprise, as the wines all changed in different ways and at different times. Yet the final result was that each is equivalent, allowing for differences in oak character.
 

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My son & I conducted our final tasting today, and the results were similar to my last (solo) tasting. I've written my conclusions to the experiment, in a new section at the end of the post.

Experiment Goals
  1. Determine the duration required to impart a pleasing oak character to each wine
  2. Compare the results between the test samples to see how the oak stix compare to the cubes
  3. Determine if there is a different in the best duration for each of the oak stix types
  4. Determine which sample(s) I like better, to help determine what type(s) of oak I'll use in the future
The results are:

1. This is a difficult one to judge, as folks have their own thresholds and likes in oak character. In re-reading our tasting results, it appears that most oak character was imparted by the end of the 4th month. Changes in the wine after that are the effects of bulk aging.

2. During the test, there were numerous differences between the batches, but after re-reading the tasting notes, my assessment is that the four batches are equivalent, e.g., I'd equate 1 wine stix kit to 2 oz medium toast oak cubes.

3. My assessment is that there was no significant difference in the best duration for any of the samples. This makes sense, given that the result of Goal #2 is that the kits are equivalent to 2 oz oak cubes.

4. This personal goal is what I expected. Previous taste tests of other wines led me towards Hungarian oak, and this test confirmed it. This is a personal preference so it may not help anyone else.

Additional Conclusion - The many changes in the wines during the test period was a surprise, as the wines all changed in different ways and at different times. Yet the final result was that each is equivalent, allowing for differences in oak character.
Any additional oaking experiments planned? 😜

Cheers!
 
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Any additional oaking experiments planned? ;)
Nothing firm. I considered 3 carboys of the same wine using Hungarian cubes -- one with medium toast, one with dark toast, and one with half-n-half. I've never used dark toast oak, and it would be interesting to see the differences.

One constraining factor is that my primary focus is keeping a pair of 54 liter barrels full. I have a 5 year plan to not make the same blend twice, so that I always have a variety. Depending on what grapes are available to me, this could be difficult to manage.

All experiments (and I love experiments) have to work around that. This experiment worked out as I had 4 carboys of 2nd run wine. My 2021's are FWK, so there's no 2nd run to play with. I had considered purchasing 3 FWK Forte kits -- make one with 2 week fermentation, one with 4 week, and one with 6 week. It seems everyone is crazy about EM -- let's compare apples-to-apples to find out what it does.

It just occurred to me that I could ferment and clear the 3 batches, and reserve 4 liters of each for testing. The remainder of the 3 batches would go into the barrel. I'd need extra top up (15 gallons for a year in a 14.25 isn't quite enough), but I have enough other wine lying around and don't fret about mixing an odd bottle of something else into the barrel. We'll have to see ....

My 2020's are Meritage blends -- #1: 66.7% Merlot, 33.3% Vinifera Blend and #2: 40% Merlot, 40% Zinfandel, 20% Vinifera Blend. I reserved 5 bottles each of the Merlot, Zinfandel, Vinifera Blend, and unoaked samples of #1 and #2. Next fall I intend to taste test all 7 wines to see what the differences are. Since I have 5 bottles of each, the plan is to do the tasting annually 4 more times. This is also a good test of the aging of the Select 900 series Nomacorcs.

Check back with me in 6 years for the results! ;)
 

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Nothing firm. I considered 3 carboys of the same wine using Hungarian cubes -- one with medium toast, one with dark toast, and one with half-n-half. I've never used dark toast oak, and it would be interesting to see the differences.

One constraining factor is that my primary focus is keeping a pair of 54 liter barrels full. I have a 5 year plan to not make the same blend twice, so that I always have a variety. Depending on what grapes are available to me, this could be difficult to manage.

All experiments (and I love experiments) have to work around that. This experiment worked out as I had 4 carboys of 2nd run wine. My 2021's are FWK, so there's no 2nd run to play with. I had considered purchasing 3 FWK Forte kits -- make one with 2 week fermentation, one with 4 week, and one with 6 week. It seems everyone is crazy about EM -- let's compare apples-to-apples to find out what it does.

It just occurred to me that I could ferment and clear the 3 batches, and reserve 4 liters of each for testing. The remainder of the 3 batches would go into the barrel. I'd need extra top up (15 gallons for a year in a 14.25 isn't quite enough), but I have enough other wine lying around and don't fret about mixing an odd bottle of something else into the barrel. We'll have to see ....

My 2020's are Meritage blends -- #1: 66.7% Merlot, 33.3% Vinifera Blend and #2: 40% Merlot, 40% Zinfandel, 20% Vinifera Blend. I reserved 5 bottles each of the Merlot, Zinfandel, Vinifera Blend, and unoaked samples of #1 and #2. Next fall I intend to taste test all 7 wines to see what the differences are. Since I have 5 bottles of each, the plan is to do the tasting annually 4 more times. This is also a good test of the aging of the Select 900 series Nomacorcs.

Check back with me in 6 years for the results! ;)
I have always likes science but it’s even better when you are REQUIRED to drink wine! 😋🤪
 
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I have folks lining up to help with next fall's testing! :p

My wife believes I have far too many wine glasses, and I gave each of my sons half a dozen when they moved out. To be fair, I rarely use more than a handful. But if we're tasting 7 wine? For 6 people I need 42 glasses ...
 
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Bmd2k1

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I'm curious re: your perceived differences and pluses/minuses between Hungarian vs French vs American oak? (I realize this is a subjective thing re: taste - but I'm hoping to garner some additional insights on this topic.)

So far I have only used American Oak spirals (1x per 6gal) of various toast levels in my bulk agings.

Thanks in advance & Cheers!
 
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I'm curious re: your perceived differences and pluses/minuses between Hungarian vs French vs American oak? (I realize this is a subjective thing re: taste - but I'm hoping to garner some additional insights on this topic.)
Read my tasting notes from the experiment, as the flow from tasting to tasting will explain a lot.


My summary? American oak produces a fruitier wine. French imparts a bit of sourness. Hungarian is in between. Overall I prefer Hungarian, but am certain to experiment with all 3.

The 2020 Meritage I made used American and French medium toast shredded oak for fermentation oak. While what I read said the variety of fermentation oak doesn't matter, immediately after pressing I found that for the Merlot, the results matched my above statement (American fruity, French sour). However, the flavors muted later on and I blended the wines, so I don't know the long term result. I had planned to save 4 liter of each for later comparison, but messed up and blended them.
 

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Read my tasting notes from the experiment, as the flow from tasting to tasting will explain a lot.


My summary? American oak produces a fruitier wine. French imparts a bit of sourness. Hungarian is in between. Overall I prefer Hungarian, but am certain to experiment with all 3.

The 2020 Meritage I made used American and French medium toast shredded oak for fermentation oak. While what I read said the variety of fermentation oak doesn't matter, immediately after pressing I found that for the Merlot, the results matched my above statement (American fruity, French sour). However, the flavors muted later on and I blended the wines, so I don't know the long term result. I had planned to save 4 liter of each for later comparison, but messed up and blended them.
Thanks! Will give it a look see ✌
 

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i've never been a fan of oak chips ,spirals, chunks - u can so so easily get over oaked in a short period of time - IMO -mentioned this in one of my earlier posts
- i aways used barrels - mine are all neutral which is great cause my wine sits in for 1.5-2 years - a neutral barrel will soften tannins, gets the fruit quality and still gets a little oak - not much - but i don't want much - i want to taste the fruit - not the oak monster
too much oak u r hiding the wine - a lot of commercial wineries will do that - blast an oak bomb cause something went wrong
what i say to the home wine makers get an oak barrel if u can -start with a small - u have much more control with the outcome
as for what oak - ?????? this the debate that will be going on for 100's of years
this is my 2 cents - been making wine - all from grapes for 34 years
zin, petit sirah, spanish wine - american oak
chard, bordeaux blends - french oak
italian wines- hungarian
yet again i made a great cans sav/merot blend in america oak
no right or wrong - but this i know a barrel makes a huge difference in the end product
 

tullamore

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forgot mention - barrels, chips, staves, etc....- can only take ur wine to a certain plateau
the big difference to making a good drinkable wine to a great/excellant wine -is the wine maker's experience - and the quality of the grape
 
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@winemaker81 Any planned new oaking experiments on taps??
I have nothing in mind in the oak dept.

However, I do have some blending ideas. I've been making field blends due to capacity constraints, using a total of 8 lugs to make wine for each 54 liter barrel. Instead of making field blends, I'm considering purchasing eight lugs of a varietal for each barrel, and buying three lugs of blending grapes to make a 23 liter carboy. At bottling time, the idea is to blend some of the carboy into the barrel wines. My current thoughts:

Barrel 1: Tempranillo. My son wants to make Tempranillo this year, and I'm good with that.

Barrel 2: Grenache or Sangiovese. I'd prefer to make Grenache for a Southern Rhone blend, but that will depend on availability.

Carboy: 1 lug each of Syrah, Petit Verdot, and Mourvedre. These will be aged unoaked, and used to make blends with the above, ranging from 5% to 25% of the carboy wine. I'm thinking we'll bench test 5 versions of each (5, 10, 15, 20, 25%) blind to see what everyone likes.

Another idea is to make a non-standard 2nd run wine. I'm considering purchasing 3 FWK Tavola kits, and add the pomace from each batch to a kit in lieu of skin packs. The idea of making all Merlot to see how different the 3 batches turn out due to the different types of pomace.
 

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