Keith Enjoys Oak

Let's talk about oak. What is it about oak that excites so many palates? Well first, let's note that oak was originally used as a method of preservation and along the way graduated to a method of seasoning and one of flavor enhancement. Moving from clay pots for wine storage some 4500+ years ago, oak became the more durable and popular method for both transport and eventually aging. With time, oak's character influence on wine became a longed for trait that is now even mimicked by those not using true oak.

Why oak? Well, easy. One, it allows aging and slow, progressive oxidation that basically, smooths harsh tannins, deepens color, increases body and generally stabilizes the wine. Two, the original varietal flavors become more complex and evolve within the oak to allow for much wider range of aromas and flavors.

Oak indeed varies. American oak, a wider grained variation, is more course in its influence than other types. Much as Pop Culture will tout about the style of our French friends to the east, their oak too is considered smoother... Tighter grained, this wood in barrel or barrique form, leaves a smoother, more subtle, velvety influence.

Size matters. The smaller the barrel, the more wine surface that touches inside its walls = more oak influence. For oak lovers, smaller is better and Barriques rule!

Time matters. The longer the aging time in barrel, the more infused the wine = more aromatic notes of cedar, vanilla, coconut, dill, and flavors of toast and well, oak. For oak lovers, longer is better!

In the end, to oak or no? Well, that's really all subjective and based on history. Different regional laws restrict oak or require it depending where you're quaffing! So, personally in purchasing, I say YES and NO depending on the food, occasion and mood! I study (drink) both. Give me a Gran Reserva Rioja and I'm elated. Hand me a clean and crisp Chilean Sauvignon Blanc and I'm refreshed.

In the end, oak is our friend. To that point, I say to you Keith, cheers - An excellent choice.