Posted by Excerpts from article written by Garrett Heaney, Winemaker Magazine, Issue Feb/Mar 2006
The Home Vintner wine kits that come with oak, are very well balanced, but careful additions can enhance the final result. The trade off is that this can prolong aging time.
Oak, whether it be French or American, light, medium, or heavy toast adds significant flavour and aroma character to both red and white wines. Some wines, such as Chardonnay and Shiraz, flaunt their oak characteristics. Using barrels might seem ideal, but they are expensive, and a lot more work to maintain, clean, and keep sanitized.
The Home Vintner uses oak chips and cubes….the smaller cut of a chip or cube, the more surface area will be exposed to the wine and hence the more oak flavour and aroma will be absorbed. Oak chips and cubes can be thrown directly into the primary, or into the carboy. Oak powders and extracts, while cost effective and convenient, are the least attractive option because they produce little in the way of oak flavour or complexity. They can also impart harsh flavours, that usually degrade the quality of the wine. Toasting oak gives it a wide range of flavours and aromas. Lighter toast typically produce more aroma than flavour and translate to a sweeter character with mild vanilla notes. Medium toast offers a more honey-like sweetness to the flavour profile, along with notes of roasted nuttiness and enhanced tannins. Heavily toasted oak results in loss of the sweet flavour and aroma notes, and more of a carmelized smokiness with coffee overtones. Heavier bodied wines are more accepting of heavier toasted oak. Factors such as oak amount and contact times are largely determined by the wine style. Also, for beer, our add pack for our India Pale Ale and Innis and Gunn style uses oak to mimic the barrel storage time in this beer type.
For expert advice, please contact The Home Vintner.