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2020-11-01 Oak in Craft Winemaking


​Oak in craft winemaking is used to add aroma, flavour, complexity and body, which is sometimes referred to as mouthfeel. Certain commercial wines are aged in oak barrels but when you make your own wines, it’s done in glass carboys. So how do you get the aromas, flavours, complexity and body that your wine should have?


Form of oak in craft winemaking

Oak is used in craft winemaking, which achieves the wine profile you want, is done in a different way. Instead of barrels, the oak comes in the form of cubes, chips or powder. So if you’re making a red wine, at the time you start it, you’ll likely be adding some oak to emulate the wine having been aged in oak barrels. It dramatically impacts the style of your craft wine, but in a good way.


Types of oak

The oak alternatives used in craft winemaking act very quickly so they don’t require long periods of aging to get the desired impact. They go into the primary fermenter and only stay there for just under two weeks. American, French or Hungarian oak alternatives impart different characteristics to your wine. Also, the form and toast that a type of oak comes in can contribute differently to your wine.

For example, let’s see what happens when you add different kinds of oak:

  1. American Highly Toasted Oak Cubes add aromatic sweetness and also flavours of vanilla, coconut, roasted coffee and cooked fruit.
  2. American Medium Toasted Oak Chips add aromatic sweetness and also flavours of vanilla, coconut, dill, mocha and cooked fruit.
  3. French Highly Toasted Oak Powder adds creaminess and flavours of vanilla, cigar box, cinnamon, coffee and cooked fruit.
  4. Hungarian Lightly Toasted Oak Chips add flavours of vanilla, mocha, leather, dark chocolate and black pepper.

These are just a few examples, but now you know more about why the description of a wine might include some of these characteristics. You’ll see that some of our white wines also include oak.

Oak in craft winemaking is an essential component to making a great tasting wine when the characteristics it imparts are desired.