New oak is considered wasteful in the wine world, largely due to the fact that is can produce a sawdust flavor that is not exactly pleasing to the palette. Although the delightful vanilla flavor imparted by American White Oak is sought after in many areas, again, the new oak option is just not worth its dust, so to speak. With this fact in place, yes, we said fact, as this is not just an opinion as once thought, winemakers have begun looking at new methods of aging.
Old oak barrels have become the standard in the winemaking industry and for good reason. The flavor is solid, and, depending on the type of oak, you can produce a variety of flavor ranges based on time. However, even old oak barrels have a lifespan! After about 2-3 uses, these barrels stop producing distinct flavor and become more suited to whiskey or bourbon barrel use. In addition, only the inside of the barrel is actually being used, a fact that is quite wasteful in itself.
New methods of aging are being implemented as of late, with oak slats being used instead of the traditional barrel method of aging. By creating strips, more of the oak tree is used overall, creating less waste and creating a LOT more oak to use for aging. This method is being tried by several wineries around the world and seems to be working out pretty well.
Although these systems will clearly need to be improved upon over time to produce the best results, we are excited to the progress and hope this means fewer trees will be used in the future. After all, we love wine, but oxygen is of far greater importance and without our trees, we won’t be breathing. We’re proud of our world’s wineries for taking the initiative and discovering new methods of aging that will also help to preserve our natural resources.