Using American Oak to Age Wine
Additionally, American oak is sawn whereas French oak is split. Sawing the oak further agitates the grain and makes the flavors imparted into the wine even brasher. Many of the techniques used to make American oak barrels were derived from coopers’ experience making whiskey barrels. The staves for whiskey barrels are always sawn rather than split, and kiln dried rather than air dried.
American oak barrels cost about half as much as French oak barrels. Because they are sawn rather than split, less labor is required to assemble them. Staves used to make American oak barrels are traditionally kiln dried and can be used fairly quickly. In contrast, French oak staves are allowed to air dry for two years or more
Many American coopers are now using traditional French techniques to construct their barrels. The best quality American barrels producing similar results to their French counterparts.
Because American oak imparts more forceful characteristics into wine than French oak, robust varietals such as Zinfandel and Syrah take well to it. These barrels impart oaky aromas, dill flavors and a creamy texture.
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