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What is cheaper than oak barrels and sometimes better?

To use oak chips and oak staves as an alternative to oak barrels has been allowed in France for around 10 years now. And producers do use them. Not so much in the regions that have traditionally always used oak barrels, such as Burgundy, Bordeaux and the rest of the Southwest.

But in south-eastern France, for example in the southern Rhône valley, some producers see the chips as a way to expand their range and to make wines with a slightly different taste profile from what they usually do. And that without the expensive investment that oak barrels require.

Sometimes the reason is so simple that they do not have room in their cellar for barrels. Grenache, a common grape here, is also sensitive to oxidation and does not always do well in barrels.

The oenologist and consultant Thomas Oui believe that if the oak chips are used correctly, they can give a boost to the wine as the structure improves while the wine feels round and soft. And thus, it appeals to a new groups of consumers. The oak contributes not only with some aromas, but also e g with an effect on the tannins and the structure. Chips or staves is not “cheating”, at least not more cheating that using barrels.

Read more: mon-viti.com

Oak chips for winemaking

Oak chips for winemaking, copyright BKWine Photography

The wine cellar at Chateau Lafite, Pauillac, Bordeaux

The wine cellar at Chateau Lafite, Pauillac, Bordeaux, copyright BKWine Photography

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