Tight Grain Oak

June 23rd, 2005

I have recenlty been reading current literature on oak in winemaking. From a number of studies, it seems clear to me that there is no correlation between the ‘tightness’ of the grain and any chemicals derived from the oak and imparted to wine. If anything, species seems to be the most imporant factor (if seasoning and toasting is the same). The American Journal of Enology and Viticulture 50(4) 1999 presents several articles from an international symposium on oak in winemaking. Even if there is no correlation between grain and flavor compounds, some may argue that there is a yet uncharacterised benefit to having smaller grain. However a study in this issue of AJEV compared wines aged in oak made from single trees (i.e. different grain size) and found no correlation. Most variation in wine descriptors was attributed to the cis oak lactone. But if we can’t use grain size, how do we know what is the best barrel for our wines. I think more must be done to establish how differences in oak derived compounds impact wine sensoy description, until then I think it must be obtained by trial and error, i.e. experience, no?

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