Oak or not oak? That is the question

by Eve Resnick on December 23, 2008

in General

Or maybe not anymore! Since I’m not a big fan of oaky wines, I think I’ll love wineries that will use the new OakScan™ created by Radoux Cooperage that “utilizes near infrared spectrometry (NIRS) to deliver the instantaneous quantification of the extractable tannins (ellagitannins) in individual oak staves before they enter production. Since extractable tannins have a profound effect on the organoleptic properties of the wine or spirits they contact, Radoux OakScan™ enables customers to understand the potential tannic contribution of finished barrels and how it relates to their products”, as stated in their press release.

Until this recent innovation, it was said and believed that the quality of the tannins were connected to the quality of the wood. For centuries, the Vosges, the Allier department and the area of Nevers in France were supposed to be the best. Then the focus shifted from the origin to the grain of the wood. Tighter grains are more aromatic and release less tannin than wider grains but sometimes produce higher tannic levels than wider ones. The aging process of the wood is also a critical factor as it is subject to variation due to seasonal weather patterns. According to some coopers, longer drying times (24-36 months outdoors) produce superior staves.

None of those factors were up to now scientifically taken into account. According to Vice President, Sales and Marketing Nicolas Mähler-Besse of Tonnellerie Radoux, “OakScan™ corroborates the effectiveness of our grain-selection and drying regimes. We measure tannic potential just before the barrels are assembled, and consequently, eliminate the risk of variation due to grain size and drying time.”

Tannins can now be even sophisticated and controlled during the winemaking process. If you love soft and discreet tannins in your wines, watch for the wineries working with this new technological process.

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