Oaking Thoughts

Wine Making Talk

Help Support Wine Making Talk:

cellular

Junior
Joined
Oct 29, 2020
Messages
9
Reaction score
1
Hi All,

I have managed to acquire an old stave from a whiskey barrel, guessing it's American Oak. I then sanded the paint off the outside and chiselled the char off the inside. After cleaning it up I then split it into lots of little sticks around 1/4inch square or smaller. Then I toasted them, some of them at 350F for 2 hours for a "Medium Toast" and others at 430F for 40 mins and 390F for 30 mins for a "Heavy Toast".

To test these out I've just opened up some bottles and chucked a couple of little bits in (about 2.5g per 750ml bottle). Planning to open the bottles in a couple of weeks and see if I like the result.

How does this sound? Have I made any big mistakes?

Also I was wondering if I was to accidently over oak a batch could I mix it with an unoaked batch to get the level of flavour I'm after? Or does it not work like that?

Cheers
 

Tim3

Member
Joined
Dec 2, 2018
Messages
55
Reaction score
64
Hi cellular, I actually had a lot of the same questions when trying to dose for oak cubes (which is what it sounds like you made). I actually built a model to help answer your questions and get you the same level of oak phenolics as your favorite commercial wines. You can see that thread linked below (or search for "replicating oak barrel program with oak cubes"). Basically just read the winemakers notes on your favorite bottles of wine and they typically saying something like "oaked 20 months, 60% new". In that case you'd input as shown below and dose accordingly (don't forget to indicate how long you plan to let your wine oak). After 12 months the cubes give up 100% of their essence, but the model adjusts if you want shorter durations. Hope this helps!


1616787373247.png
 

cellular

Junior
Joined
Oct 29, 2020
Messages
9
Reaction score
1
That's awesome thanks, guessing it's in US gallons yes? At least it gives me an idea of what I should be shooting for in terms of time.

According to the sheet I'm not going to get much putting 2.5g ish into a 750ml bottle for a couple of weeks, looks like it should be more like 6 months! Does this tie in with your experience?

Am tempted to crack the bottles in a month or so anyway and sample then top up and re-cork.

Still not sure which toast level is best either.

Shots show the untoasted bits for comaprison

164981337_10101462106695485_6728430004425815518_o.jpg165391671_10101462106720435_7962943024716738426_o.jpg165982543_10101462106745385_665916614040299180_o.jpg
 
Last edited:

Tim3

Member
Joined
Dec 2, 2018
Messages
55
Reaction score
64
That's awesome, I never would have thought to repurpose a barrel like that. Yes it's in US Gallons (5 bottles per 1 US Gallon). I have never tried oaking in the bottle before and will almost always add oak to the carboy instead for 6 - 12 months. But 2.5 grams per bottle is actually a pretty good dose. If you wanted quicker extraction you'd need to make oak chips with a very high surface contact ratio, those tend to contribute all their flavor in as little as a week. From the looks of it you made a bit of a hybrid "chip cube", so it's hard to say how long you should wait. I'd taste weekly to see how it's coming as 2.5 grams of oak chips per bottle is quite a lot. For toast levels, it's all up to your own taste! I've settled on medium and medium+ as my preferred toast, usually French oak but will use American or Hungarian at times. Let us know how it turns out!
 

cellular

Junior
Joined
Oct 29, 2020
Messages
9
Reaction score
1
Ok great sounds good am formulating a bit of a plan now. It seems better for me to aim for about 2-3 months in the demijohn (4.8L) so that the oak is completely spent then just bin it. I'll have to see how these bottles turn out (may not even like it anyway) but most people seem to use medium toast which corresponds to approx 1-2h at about 350-380F i think, I expect that will probably be the best.

The last problem is what to do if I go too far? Especially if they are quite fast acting. Can you over oak one gallon then mix it with another unoaked gallon to get the right level? Or under oak then add a bit more in for extra flavour?

Cheers for the help on this, hopefully it'll add the finishing touch to my wine.
 

Tim3

Member
Joined
Dec 2, 2018
Messages
55
Reaction score
64
I like your plan! If you’re oaking in the demijohn (good idea) you can always use your wine thief to determine how oaked your wine is becoming so it doesn’t go too far. Once it’s overoaked all of the options you listed are on the table. Most commercial wines will purposefully blend to taste new and used barrels before bottling for that exact reason to get their preferred final result. For the home winemakers not using barrels, and if have the time, under oaking and slowly adjusting up is the way to go. Not to be cliche but I like to think of oak like black pepper on salmon. It’s almost always a good idea but a little goes a long way.
 

winemaker81

wine dabbler
WMT Supporter
Joined
Nov 5, 2006
Messages
1,552
Reaction score
2,188
Location
Raleigh, NC, USA
Have I made any big mistakes?
IMO the process you are using sounds good. When I read "painted" my first thought was, "Oh, no!", but you're probably ok. A few thoughts:

1) Make sure it's white oak for wine or whiskey. Other woods can produce problems.

2) If the barrel had any problems, e.g., infected with a bad bacteria, that may come through in the wine. The small batch testing is perfect for this, as after a month you'll know if you have a problem and the potential loss is a couple of bottles.

3) For "X months aged in a new barrel", the value of X changes greatly depending on barrel size. The oak character imparted is directly related to the ratio of the internal surface area of the barrel versus the quantity of wine. Graph surface area versus volume and the curve gets steeper as the barrel size decreases. Commercial wines aged for several years are most likely in 59 gallon barrels. Aging wine in smaller barrels is a wholly different kettle of fish.

Last year my son & I conducted a test. I used 6 oz medium toast French cubes in a 54 liter (14.25 US gallon) neutral barrel (10 yo). After 3 months I racked the barrel and removed the cubes, which were cleaned and dried. We put all 6 oz into a 23 liter Shiraz kit my son made, and left it for 3 months. When we tasted the Shiraz it was good, but the oak was light, ~half the flavoring 2 oz new cubes would have made. This is our personal tastes, so take that with a grain of salt.

I found a reference that suggested 2 oz oak cubes per 5 gallons wine for 3 or 4 months, and so far that has worked out. The second part of our test used 3 times that amount of oak, and our guesstimate is that we got about 1/6 dosage from the cubes, so IMO the cubes would be neutral at ~6 months.

@Tim3's tables are a great resource. They give us a baseline to work from. The one caveat is that we are dealing with natural processes and Mother Nature does her own thing with no regard for humans.

Regarding blending -- last year when I racked the barrel, I poured the loose sludge into a 1.5 liter wine bottle and let it clear. When we tasted the wine -- OMG!!! Over-oaked does not begin to describe it. It was completely undrinkable. There are no convection currents in the barrel so the wine closest to the cubes was oversaturated with oak character.

However, over the following months I used that wine to topup the barrel, and when diluted in 14 gallons of wine, the oak character was perfect!

Blending has been used for centuries to produce a final result that is better than the sum of the parts. Oak is one characteristic, and blending a highly oaked wine into an non-oaked wine produces a result in between.
 

pete1325

Senior Member
Joined
Nov 7, 2010
Messages
476
Reaction score
97
Location
Bartlett, IL
For all the work put into the staves, you can buy oak spirals. which work really good.
 

cellular

Junior
Joined
Oct 29, 2020
Messages
9
Reaction score
1
Thanks for the chat. I've cracked the bottles and tried the wine now so will give some info.

For the sterilisation as I'm toasting the oak myself in the oven at around 400F then i'm fairly confident it won't have any nasties in.

I'm not exactly sure what type of oak it is, but i do know the stave has come from a wine barrel as it said so on the side of the barrel.

Yes I understand it's possible to just buy oaking spirals/cubes/chips/powder but it's also possible to just buy a nice bottle of wine ;)

When the bottles were cracked and tasted you could defiantly taste the oak (success) and it was a pleasant flavour. This is now all subjective but i found my 'medium toast' (see first post) was almost too woody and a very strong oak flavour. The 'dark toast; had a complexity of vanilla and faint sweetness and was much milder on the woody oaky flavour. These are only my 'medium' and 'dark' toastings which may not match up to what any industry standard of medium or dark is.

As Tim3 says after a few sips i thought more of treating it like seasoning good food. I decided to try blending it 5050 with unoaked wine as whilst the stronger oak flavour was good for identifying the flavour profile in my opinion it got in the way of the wine. When the dark toast was blended 5050 with unoaked wine it was much better as a table wine, the oak was only lightly identifiable, mainly towards the end and served to extend and smooth the finish of the wine. This might not be the case for a stronger or more full bodied wine. The medium toast needed diluting 4:1 with unoaked wine but still we thought the dark was better, although not by much as it's a subtle taste anyway.

I found that after one week/10 days it was pretty much fully extracted and the oakyness didn't significantly increase.

To progress with this plan I put 8g of the dark oak 'splinters' in 2 of the 3 4.8L demijohns I have of this wine. The last one being left straight to give me blending options if it ends up too much.

I also put 10g of the dark oak in two 4.8L demijons of a different wine which is much more tannic and rich. I'll have to see how this comes out.

So in general the main finding is that yes you can use a oak barrel stave to make your own toasting oak, and it works well. Also oaking in the bottle is a easy and low risk way of finding out whether a certain type of wine would benefit from added oak, and the amount I would say is probably around 0.7-1.4g probably err on the high side of this if you have unoaked wine to blend it with in a bench test. Finally full extraction is available quite quickly when the oak is split along the grain into little splinters.

The only questions now are what types of wines benefit the most from oaking? High alcohol tannic ones (port)? all high alcohol ones (sherry)? white wines? cider? I don't want to end up over oaking everything and ending up with all my brews tasting like they were made from sawdust so need to take this easy and get a good plan. Also where is lighter toasted oak typically used? White wines?

Thanks for all the help
 
Last edited:

winemaker81

wine dabbler
WMT Supporter
Joined
Nov 5, 2006
Messages
1,552
Reaction score
2,188
Location
Raleigh, NC, USA
Which wines to oak and what oak to use is based upon your taste. Before oaking a wine, research it to see if it is done commercially. If so, that's a good indication. But if you want to try something? Go for it! If it doesn't work out, you have a bottle or 2 of cooking wine.

Generally, whites are not going to handle a lot of oak without being overpowered by the oak. Heavier reds will handle oak better than lighter wines.
 

Latest posts

Top