Comparative Oak Tasting Highlights the Art of Fine Wine Making

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Do you like wine aged in American oak or French oak? Lightly or heavily toasted oak? Ever wonder how big of a difference the origin or toast of oak used to age wine really has on the taste of the finished product in your glass?

During our annual Comparative Oak Tasting event, we provide a unique experience for you to come out and learn about how big of an impact the type of oak has on a wine’s flavor and mouthfeel.

This year, we held our 9th Annual Comparative Oak Tasting on January 27-28. At this unique tasting event, guests were invited to taste six Chambourcin wines and six Norton wines each with different types of oak. Oak types ranged from the traditional French Oak Medium Toast to new proprietary oak staves with specific character like Mocha and Vanilla.

It is always amazing how the exact same wine can take on such a wide array of character just from the type of oak.  While wine making is a science, it’s also very much an art because there are so many variables that can influence the outcome. There are hundreds - if not thousands - of oak types and combinations so the ending result can be very wide ranging.

For example, take several staves (small boards) of white oak from a Missouri oak tree and apply different types of heat on the wood from the same source and you get different flavors in the wine. Coopers today have access to traditional fire toast methods, infrared toasting methods and convection heat methods. Each method of heat produces a variety of flavor profiles in the wood. Vary the length of time for each heat source and you change the flavor even more.

Oak Samples used
While there are hundreds of variables and commercially available oak varieties we narrowed our evaluation down to just six types of oak. The following oak options are available from Oak Solutions Group, a local company based in Lebanon, Missouri, that specializing in providing oak chips, staves and other barrel alternatives to the wine industry. A special thank you to Amy LaHue from Columbia, Mo., for helping coordinate and sending us easy-to- use oak samples for testing the oak varieties.

In our oak trials we used the following:

  1. Precision Oak Balanced
  2. Pure 2 Vanilla
  3. High Mocha
  4. Cuvee No. 2
  5. French Oak Infrared Toast
  6. 46 Degree Burgundy

These six oak types were testing in both our 2017 Chambourcin and 2017 Norton. Many of you who tasted the wines in the lineup found it interesting that the best oak for one type of wine was not the best oak for the other type of wine.  As a wine maker, it goes to show that you can’t necessarily have a favorite oak for all your wines.

Results and customer feedback
Every customer participating was asked to rate each wine and rank them in order of preference. The scores where then tallied and evaluated to find a statistical winner in each wine varietal. The oak rated 1st was the most liked while oak ranked 6th was least liked. As a result of this method, the lower the total number, the higher it placed in likability.

2017 CHAMBOURCIN WINE

  • Cuvee No. 2 Oak - 256 votes
  • Precision Oak Balanced Oak - 253 votes
  • Pure 2 Vanilla Oak - 236 votes
  • High Mocha Oak - 235 votes
  • French Oak Infared Toast Oak - 223 votes
  • 46 Degree Burgundy Oak - 222 votes (the winner)

2017 NOTRON WINE ON THE FOLLOWING OAK

  • Pure 2 Vanilla Oak - 277 votes
  • Cuvee No. 2 Oak - 267 votes
  • French Oak Infared Toast Oak - 265 votes
  • High Mocha Oak - 233 votes
  • 46 Degree Burgundy Oak - 230 votes
  • Precision Oak Balanced Oak - 228 votes (the winner)

It was interesting to see that the oak most loved for Chambourcin was different than the oak most loved with the Norton. However, there was one that rank very high in both varietals -  the 46 Degree Burgundy oak.

In the end our winners were 46 Degree Burgundy for the Chambourcin and the Precision Oak Balanced for the Norton.

If you’d like to try our wines and see the difference that oak can make, be sure to follow us online and mark your calendar for next year’s 10th Annual Oak Tasting scheduled for January 27-28, 2019. We’d love to have you be a part of selecting the best oak for the next vintage of Jowler Creek Wine!