Difference Between American Oak vs French Oak

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Oak plays a crucial role in winemaking due to its ability to breathe and provide micro-oxygenation, which helps to smooth out astringency and balance the wine. Additionally, oak can enhance the wine’s flavor by transferring the wood’s character to the wine. By using oak barrels or alternatives like oak chips or staves, winemakers can introduce specific flavors, aromas, and textures such as vanilla, caramel, spice, toast, or smoke. Depending on the type and amount of oak used, it can also contribute a silky or creamy texture to the wine. Due to its significant effect on wine, you can usually find information on oak usage when you want to buy wine online and visit a wine store in USA.

Oak barrels not only enhance the flavor and texture of wine but also facilitate its aging and maturation process. This is attributed to the porous nature of oak, which allows for a gradual and controlled exchange of oxygen. As a result, tannins are softened and flavors are integrated over time, creating a more harmonious taste. Moreover, the selection of oak type and barrel age plays a vital role in determining the wine’s characteristics, with newer oak yielding more pronounced flavors and aromas and older oak imparting a subtler influence.

There are several types and origins of oak, but two are very common in use: American oak (Quercus alba) and French oak (Quercus robur).

They have distinct differences in their characteristics and this article, we will take look at how they impact the wine, so you can have an idea when you visit a wine store USA. Here are some key differences:

Origin: French oak barrels come from oak trees grown in forests in France, while American oak barrels come from oak trees grown in the United States.

Tightness of Grains: French oak has tighter grains compared to American oak. This means that the wood is denser, and the pores are smaller. As a result, French oak imparts more subtle and delicate flavors and aromas to the wine. For example, when you buy a high-tannic Cabernet Sauvignon from a wine store in USA, it should have stayed in oak with a higher oxygen ingress level to smooth the tannins, a pinot noir in the wine barrel does not need that much air permeability. This explains why red wines get into oak barrels more, even if that is costly.

Flavor Profile: French oak typically adds flavors of robust notes of coconut, vanilla, cinnamon, and smoke to the wine. American oak barrel, on the other hand, can add stronger flavors of hazelnut, spice, smokiness, and cedar.

Tannins: French oak tannins are generally finer and more integrated with the wine, while American oak tannins can be more pronounced and astringent.

Cost: French oak is generally more expensive than American barrel, due to its limited supply and the cost of importing it from France. This is why many French wines in online wine stores are more expensive than others.

The size and shape of the oak barrel, time spent in it, and toast level (for example medium toast) also affect the flavor completely. The smaller oak, the more the robust effect it gives to wine because its contact surface area with wine is higher. This is why the common oak barrels for elegant wines are 225 liters (59 gallons), ones called barriques. The usage time of the barrel is important because its effect slightly reduces almost to half after a year and unfortunately almost after three years, they become neutral in terms of flavor-adding capability. After this period, oak barrels also become tight, disallowing micro-oxygenation as new ones but could still be usable for winemakers who don’t want very oaky wines. Oaks are toasted to give more complex flavors and have different levels; low toast levels give more vanilla, and sweet spices, and higher toast levels bring more caramel and coffee taste.

New oak barrels are expensive due to their hard production process; the oak tree can be harvested only when it’s 100-150 years old and could be made in only 2 barrels in 15 years. Also, when the evaporation and the barrel’s life span are considered, the total cost goes far high. Some winemakers waive elegance and use only economic flavor compounds of oak, which are chips, staves, cubes, and powders, or they use only a particular part of the wine for oak aging and then blend with other parts which stayed in steel, cement, or plastic tanks. You can find all these kinds of wines when you want to buy wine online.

Overall, the choice between French oak and American oak barrels depends on the desired style of the wine and the winemaker’s preference. French oak barrel (some calls European oak) is often preferred for its subtlety and elegance, while American oak can add bold and distinctive flavors to the wine. Even the most famous wines in online wine stores spend a seriously long time in oak barrels; there are very delightful wines that have never seen any barrel treatment, but most of them are young-drinking wines for sure.

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Source by- https://blogulr.com/bottlebarn/know-the-difference-between-american-oak-vs-french-oak-93141