We don’t have room for traditional oak barrels. Tiran & Cavel from my novel Children of Breton would probably be annoyed by that. Just wait until Barbin Fortier of The Changeling hears this. He’ll have kittens.
So how do you oak your wine if you don’t have barrels? Quite simple, really. And lots of folks who have older barrels do it too!
These “oak dice” are the exact same French Oak Quercus robur species the fancy $1200 barrels are made out of. A 100-year old French oak tree can only give about 3 water-tight barrels, but contains over 300 barrel’s worth of oak if used wisely.
Oak in an infuser
Sometimes we use an “infuser” in the bung, that allows us to change out the oak and thus get stronger oak flavors over time. We have done this on some of our Cabernet Sauvignons.
Oak in infuser bags
These are bags of “oak dice” being prepared to use in our horizontal steel barrels. they include stave as well as end cap wood.
Oak in links
These are oak links, bags that are easier to insert if we’re looking for a lot of oak flavor at once. We moved onto oak staves from these, though some of our 2010-2013 Cabernet Franc’s used them.
Oak staves. These are simply french oak staves that were not bent by steam and coopered into a water-tight barrel. Our Meritages used these, and we adore the full flavor they give. At this point, the difference between an oak barrel and an oak barrel in a tank is getting fairly small. The cost difference, however, is significant.
Liquid Oak (no, NOT Felix Felicis)
Liquid oak. We don’t use any liquid oak flavorings, but for the amateur wine-makers only making a few gallons they can give strong oak flavor instantly, as a fraction of the cost of the other alternatives. Not a good choice for long-term aging a good red. More akin to gas station sushi than a professional alternative.
And how we add our oak…