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French oak barrel, how much do you know about it?
In addition to benefiting from the grace of nature, the advent of fine wine is certainly inseparable from superb brewing technology. Oak barrels play an important role in the brewing process of wine. Like a dexterous makeup artist, they can make wine more charming. There are many types of oak barrels. Among them, French barrels are of high quality and widely used, which is one of the typical representatives. How much do you know about such a popular and classic French oak barrel?

1、 Main origin

French oak varieties are mainly Quercus robur and Quercus patraea/sessileoak. These two varieties are excellent choices for making oak barrels, and the oak barrels made from them have their own characteristics. These oaks used to make oak barrels are suitable for growing in cool climates, which are conducive to slowing down the growth rate of oaks and promoting the development of wood texture. The origin of French oak barrels is divided by forest, and there are subtle differences between oak barrels produced in different origins. France has five core oak barrel producing areas, mainly distributed in the middle and east of France, including Allier, troncais, Limousin, nevers and Vosges.

Alier forest is adjacent to Neville forest in the north and Limousin forest in the southwest. The wood produced here is similar to Neville forest, but the texture structure is more compact, which can add a trace of vanilla and nut flavor to the wine.

Located in the center of the alier region, the transy forest is planted with more than 1100 hectares of high-quality oak trees. The wood produced here is also fine-grained and soft, which can give the wine a natural butter and cream flavor.

Limousin forest is located in the central region of France, where summer oak and sessile flower oak are planted. Among the five major production areas, only Limousin produces summer oak. Its wood texture is relatively loose, with many pores and rich tannins. Oak barrels made of it will give the wine a weak bitter taste when ripening wine. These oak barrels are mostly used for aging cognac and Armagnac.

Neville forest is located in the northern part of the transy and alier forests. The oak produced by Neville forest has a moderate texture density, which usually brings spice flavor to the wine.

There is a rolling Vosges mountain range in eastern France, on which the Vosges forest with the same name is located. The oak produced here has a more detailed texture, but it is relatively sparse compared with the oak of the alier forest. The oak barrels made from the oak here can slowly dissolve the soft tannins and exquisite oak flavor into the liquor when used to ripen wine.

2、 Capacity and price

French oak barrels are of various types and sizes. The capacity of traditional oak barrels used in each wine producing area is also very different, ranging from only 100 liters to more than 2000 liters. The most common types of oak barrels are 225 liter Bordeaux small oak barrels and 228 liter Burgundy oak barrels. In addition, there are some common large capacity oak barrels, such as 900 liter tonneaux and more than 1000 liter foudres. The 900 liter barrel is equivalent to four small Bordeaux oak barrels. Whenever wine merchants purchase wine in large quantities from the winery, they often use this large barrel to carry wine liquid. The traditional oak barrels in rhonevalley and Alsace are large barrels with a capacity of 1000 to 2000 liters.

The price of French oak barrels is not entirely based on the volume, but depends on their quality. An oak barrel usually sells for $850 (about 5983 yuan) to $4000 (about 28155 yuan). The oak barrels produced in alier forest, transy forest and Vosges forest are of excellent quality, and the price can be as high as $4000.

3、 Style influence

The wood texture density of oak barrels will have a certain impact on the style of wine. The wood texture of French oak barrels is usually relatively tight, with less oak lactone. When using it to ripen wine, the contact between wine liquor and oxygen is relatively small, and the influence on wine liquor style is relatively soft. In short, French oak barrels are ideal for making delicate wines, and they are a perfect match with wines made by Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

Different oak barrels have different effects on liquor. The smaller the volume of the oak barrel, the larger the contact area with the liquor, and the more significant the impact on the wine flavor. A large wooden barrel usually does not give the liquor too much new flavor, but it can allow the liquor to have a moderate oxidation with oxygen.

Depending on the type of wine, the winemaker will also choose different types of French oak barrels, giving different effects to the wine. In general, winemakers will use French oak barrels to add a hint of smoke and nut flavor to white wine, or use its ripened red wine to give the flavor of spices such as clove and cedar to make the tannins of the wine softer and the taste smoother. If the oak is highly roasted, it can also give the liquor more coffee flavor.

French oak barrels have a long history and play an enduring role in wine brewing. They can not only make wine emit wonderful aroma of smoke, spices and nuts, but also give wine silky texture and complex flavor. If the brewing of wine is a landscape painting with profound artistic conception, then the oak barrel may be the little touch of embellishment, or it may be the touch of color that makes the finishing touch.