My Latest in Wine Business Monthly:
Winemakers Turn to Variety-Specific and Hybrid Barrels
by L.M. Archer
Winemakers Turn to Hybrid Barrels to Express Individual Styles
Hold on to your barrelbung: That old axiom about Spanish producers “always” using American oak may no longer be true. A few pioneering Spanish winemakers are now using hybrid barrels, those crafted from different wood types, to age their wines. The movement isn’t exclusive to Spain, either. A growing number of winemakers worldwide actually prefer hybrid barrels, too.
Bodegas LAN in Rioja started its hybrid barrel program nearly a generation ago. “About 20 years ago, we began to try different types of oak,” said winemaker Maria Barúa, who studied differences among oak types at the Government Research Center of La Rioja, part of the Instituto de Ciencias de la Vid y del Vino (ICVV).
“In Rioja, the barrels that were traditionally used were mainly American oak. We began to test with the French oak to see the differences, and we considered working with barrels that would combine these two types of oak. This way, the wine could be nourished by the qualities that each type of oak provides, developing a wine with different personality,” Barúa said.
Barúa discovered that American oak staves from the Appalachian forests of Ohio and Missouri offer “intense” aromas of coconut and vanilla while French oak heads from different forests in central France (Allier, Troncàis, Jupille and Blois) yield more aromatic complexity, with notes of black pepper, clove and cinnamon, as well as touches of menthol, smoke and cocoa.
Using French oak for the barrel heads also offers more tannins, resulting in greater structure on the palate. “With the combination of the two oaks, we give more complexity and structure to the wine while maintaining the respect for the fruit,” Barúa said. “The use of hybrid casks started with the LAN Crianza, and it has now been extended also to the LAN Reserva.” READ MORE HERE.