The Difference Between New and Old Oak, Explained

The Difference Between New and Old Oak, Explained

Talk to any wine lover, and you’ll notice that for wine, there’s a great interest in the types of oak barrels used to age the wine. Does it really matter? It turns out it does. In fact, the type, age and size of the barrels used in wine production significantly influence the wine’s final flavour, texture and aroma.

Before we talk about this exciting topic, allow us to invite you to visit an authentic wine cellar and see what oak barrels are all about. Take a winery tour to Yarra Valley with Chauffeur Drive Melbourne, Yarra Valley a weekend getaway from Melbourne or a one-day excursion to the Yarra Valley. From cellar visits to wine tastings, we’ve got you covered.

What’s the deal with oak barrels?

Oak is the preferred type of wood for oak barrels, as it’s pliable, watertight and lightweight. Still, thousands of years ago, people noticed that wine and spirits stored in oak barrels gained a darker colour, a more robust texture and a whole new layer of aromas, from vanilla and caramel to espresso.

Of course, not all oak barrels are the same. Some are made with American oak, which is less expensive and more aromatic, and others are made with French oak, more costly, but elegant and discrete.

The size of the barrels plays a role as well, as large oak barrels affect the liquid inside much less than small barrels, in which more of the wine is in contact with the wood.

How about old versus new barrels?

The thing with oak barrels is that they infuse any liquid stored in them, but most flavours and aromas are filtered out in the barrel’s first use. Second-year oak barrels affect the wine much less than first-use barrels.

If taken care of, an oak barrel will still add some flavour and aroma after around seven uses, and after several uses, a wine barrel is considered a neutral vessel. So, why does it matter?  Balance is critical here, so some producers might age a percentage of their wine in new oak barrels and the rest in second and third-use barrels. The possibilities are limitless!

Then there’s the price.

Take a winery tour to Yarra Valley and walk some of the most impressive wine cellars in the country. You’ll look at hundreds of thousands of dollars piled up in those dim cellars, as a single new oak barrel can cost up to $2,000, and wineries need quite a few of them.

Wineries using 100% per cent new oak must sell their wine at a premium. At the end of the day, it is the wine consumers who pay for those barrels. Conscious producers don’t rely on new oak that much. After all, when the wine is good, it needs no makeup.

What Do You Prefer? New Oak or Old Oak?

New oak barrels might be more expensive and aromatic than old barrels, but that doesn’t make them any better. If you enjoy tasting the oak influence in your glass of wine, then new oak is for you. If you’re more into the wine’s fruit aromas, then old barrels are your cup of tea.

Its wine o’clock literally!

What is your preference? Distinguish yourself from other wine pros, have you ever thought about wearing wine inspired jewelry pieces?  A perfect gift for the wine lover in your life, wear a handcrafted French or Austrian wine barrel that is repurposed as a timeless piece, a sure conversation starter around your next wine moment.

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