While the variety of grape and precisely how that grape is grown largely contribute to the flavor of wine, there is a multitude of flavor-enhancing factors that a barrel can add to the aging process of wine. Material from which a barrel is made; surface area within a barrel; the unique evaporation and low-level oxygen exposure within a barrel; the amount of wine placed in a barrel; and the complex chemical reactions within a barrel can all contribute to the powerful flavor of barrel-aged wine.
Bottle aging is simply no match for the time-honored tradition of barrel aging wine. Typically, it is oak barrels that are used to impart varying color, flavor and even texture of wine…which, by the way, is often referred to as silkier. The porous nature and chemical properties of an oak barrel work toward creating a more concentrated flavor and aroma – which can tend to be toasty, buttery, creamy and smoky. It is often likened to spice, caramel or vanilla.
Even the type of oak barrel can affect the flavor of barrel-aged wine. For example, the oak trees grown in the Hungarian mountains grow slower in volcanic soil, resulting in a fine, tight grain which can create a toastier, woodier flavor. American oaks produce sweet undertones and more intensely flavored wines than the French oaks.
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