Generally speaking, American oak is treated with a polyurethane finish. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the fine points of etiquette to the science of winemaking. Speaking in broad generalities, French oak barrels are typically more subtle and spicy, offering textures of satin or silk. At Sedimentality, we would like to guess that the majority of people asking if wine is aged in American or French oak do not truly understand the differences that these types of oak make on a wine, although there is quite a significant difference! Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny answers questions about freezing wine. Food (and wine) for thought. To each his (or her) own! Hello there! As such French oak imparts more subtle flavors and firmer, but silkier tannins. In American oak, however, the cooper (barrel maker) is more highly regarded than the forest that the tree comes from. Even if a producer uses exclusively French or exclusively American barrels, there are other variables, such as different barrel producers, different levels of toast (the heating of the inside of the barrels), and mixing newer (and therefore stronger) with older (more neutral) barrels. How do you experience it? What does it mean when a tasting note refers to the “midpalate”? Speaking in broad generalities, French oak barrels are typically more subtle and spicy, offering textures of satin or silk. In the wine world, the beauty is that it is always changing, and always subjective. American oak is grown is the forests of Iowa, Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio and Oregon. To see the difference in American versus French oak, go to your local wine store and explain that you would like to try two wines from the same varietal which have been aged in American and French oak. The following are results from research done at Stavin and should only be used to give an approximation of what each of these three varieties of oak can bring to your wine. If you were to meet the French oak at a party, you might have a tougher time getting to know him, but you might come to really enjoy his company. "Lees" is more. Some producers use exclusively French or American barrels, while others mix it up. The American oak, however, is far less subdued. Which forest is “better” is obviously a matter of preference, but the general mentality is that the forest where the trees were from determines which barrel the winemaker would like to use. In both cases, the oak tannins combine with the grape tannins to form a new structure which tends to be more appealing than grape tannin or oak tannin alone. The differences in flavors imparted by French and American oak barrels The simplest way to describe the differences in French and American oak is to think of them as personalities. American oak gives a softer, sweeter taste with notes of vanilla and caramel, while European oak is spicier and has a stronger wood input. Perhaps Robert deLeuze from SD winery in Carneros, California put it best when he said “In cooking, you use different spices depending on what you are making and what spices you like. Are they good holiday gifts for wine lovers? French oak imparts firmer, but silkier tannins, whereas American oak gives more obvious, rougher tannins that will need time in the bottle to mellow out. It outlines the relationship between oak and wine and why this particular wood is so essential to making quality wines, and it also explains the barrel making process, which is quite fascinating! Some winemakers are not so diplomatic when expressing their opinions of which barrel is superior. American oak has more of the actual “oak” aroma and flavor, and often imparts a vanilla flavor as well (which is highly desired by many consumers). A comparison of French, Hungarian, and American Oaks 02/22/2012. 2020 Beaujolais Nouveau: Celebrating Bright Wines in a Dim Year, Hugo Ortega’s Sweet-and-Savory Stuffed Quail Feast for Thanksgiving, 2020 Gift Guide: Editors’ Favorite Wine Accessories. And in the American oak, look for those oak and vanilla flavors and aromas which scream “American oak aged”. Sound familiar? American barrels tend to be stronger in flavor, often described as cream soda, vanilla, or coconut, resulting in wines with a more creamy texture. Keep in mind that there are a lot of variables when it comes to oak aging. Look for more subtle flavors in the French oak, and possibly more tannins. Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains how—and when—the midpalate is experienced. First off, I suggest that you read our article “How A Wine Barrel is Made“. Some winemakers might barrel-age their wines for only a few months, while others can go a couple of years or more. All metaphors aside, the French oak has more tannins and imparts more complex flavors into the wine. I'm Dr. Vinifera, but you can call me Vinny. Visit any winery or tasting room and eventually, you will hear what is probably the most common question asked to vintners: “Is this aged in American or French oak?” The tasting room attendant or winemaker answers, the person asking the question nods as if in approval, and we all go on sniffing the wine, sipping it and pretending that we smell the violets, cherries, chocolate or whatever else people claim is in the wine… and wondering why it matters so much if a barrel came from France or America. When you order a barrel, you could very well specify from which forest you wish your barrel to be sourced. Instagram Live Chats: View the Full Schedule, Coming soon—Cristie Kerr, Erwan Faiveley, Michel Chapoutier. You must taste! Is my home wine cellar supposed to smell like wine? Make sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter for more food facts, recipes, wine reviews, and pairings. The idea of regional flavors is not held to the high regard that it is in France. Most whisky casks are made from either American white oak or European oak. So, when an oak tree falls in an American forest, its impact is … Yet French barrels are significantly more expensive (anywhere from $500 to $1,000, depending on the forest and the cooper, compared to the American barrels, which can go for as low as $200). Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny offers tips for choosing a wine club. It will bring notes of vanilla, pepper and subtle spiciness. French oak is used to age wine and cognac. And don't forget to check out my most asked questions and my full archives for all my Q&A classics. Could smoke taint in wine be removed by reverse osmosis. As consumers, we do not have to worry about taking our place in this sometimes heated debate; instead, we get the fun part: drinking the beautiful wines! Should I be concerned about wine freezing in my car if it’s below freezing outside? Once you understand the importance of a barrel in the winemaking process, you can begin to differentiate between the types of wood used to make these barrels. Sign up for Wine Spectator’s Free Email Newsletters and stay up-to-date with all things wine. For starters, French oak barrels are made from white oak trees grown in France and American oak barrels are made from white oak trees grown in the United States. We like this approach, and applaud his diplomatic outlook on barrel usage. Over time, this will need to be touched up and refinished. American barrels tend to be stronger in flavor, often described as cream soda, vanilla, or coconut, resulting in wines with a more creamy texture. Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains the difference between acidity and effervescence. You wouldn’t approach the American oak: he would approach you. Try to keep them in the same price range as well, if possible. What’s the deal with the French vs. American oak barrel question? Most whisky casks are made from either American white oak or European oak. French oak is used to age wine and cognac. American oak is grown is the forests of Iowa, Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio and Oregon. French oak mainly comes from the forests of Limousin, Alliers, Vosges, Troncais and Nevers. The debate between American and French oak will continue for quite some time. The next time you have a dinner party, open both and try them side by side: don’t forget to try them when you first cork the bottles and then again a bit later, after the wine has opened up. Textures of satin or silk Q & a french oak vs american oak whisky, another difference the. 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