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How Long Should I Age Wine In A New 5 Gal. Oak Barrel?


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#1 Nonno Domenico

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Posted 07 February 2009 - 08:26 AM

I'm new to winemaking and have 6 gallons of Merlot kit wine in a carboy right now. I didn't want to use the oak powder that came with the kit because I have a brand new 5 gallon medium toast oak barrel I planned to age it in. (The leftover wine will age in a gallon jug with oak chips) I've read that due to the greater surface area of a 5 gal. barrel and being new, the wine may only need to be on oak 1 month. Does anyone have some experience based insight they can share as a general guideline or should I just check the wine every 2 - 3 weeks?

#2 NorthernWiner

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Posted 07 February 2009 - 12:32 PM

QUOTE (Nonno Domenico @ Feb 7 2009, 08:58 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
...I've read that due to the greater surface area of a 5 gal. barrel and being new, the wine may only need to be on oak 1 month.

Depending on the type of oak (American or French), you may be looking at as little as 1 week. I would check it every couple of days on the first use. Hopefully, you have another wine to put in the barrel when the first wine is ready to come out. Actually, you would do well two have about 3 wines sitting in the wings.

One of my barrels is a 6.5 gallon American oak. The first wine was in it for about 10 days. The 2nd wine, 3 weeks. The 3rd went in for a couple of months. The most recent wine I had in it was a Syrah. That one was a very dark, bold wine and was able to stay in the barrel for 9 months. I now have a Merlot in it that I'm fairly certain should be able to go for a year.

Steve Kroll
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"41 Years of Fine Winemaking"
www.purplefoot.org


Wine a little... and you'll feel much better!


#3 voon

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Posted 07 February 2009 - 03:11 PM

How do you know how much oak is too much? I know, you're going to say you taste it. But I'm not really educated about wine tasting, and I don't think I know how to pick out the flavor imparted by the oak from flavors that come from other sources.

When I finally decide to get a barrel I will do an experiment. I'll make the kit without any oak included with the kit, then I'll keep some of it back completely unoaked, and let the rest go into the barrel, then taste it every few days. Maybe that will clue me in to what flavor I'm looking for. And I guess I should start with a pretty small barrel so I can keep it filled while still holding some back.

If you want to bulk age a wine for six months before bottling and you plan to oak it in a barrel that is fairly new, then you won't be leaving it in the barrel for the whole time. Is it better to oak it at the beginning or at the end of your bulk aging period?

#4 MartyPhee

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Posted 07 February 2009 - 04:05 PM

I found with my 5gal french oak I was able to keep the wine in there for a pretty long time without worring about overy oaking. I believe my first wine in there was a Cab from Brehm, Hopland and I keep it in there for 3 months. Turned out wonderful, but watch oak for the american oaks. 3 weeks on the first use would be about the max, but their also half the price of a french oak.

QUOTE (NorthernWiner @ Feb 7 2009, 01:04 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Depending on the type of oak (American or French), you may be looking at as little as 1 week. I would check it every couple of days on the first use. Hopefully, you have another wine to put in the barrel when the first wine is ready to come out. Actually, you would do well two have about 3 wines sitting in the wings.



#5 TankCa

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Posted 07 February 2009 - 06:42 PM

I just started using barrels about 6 months ago, the two I have are 5 and 6 gallon Vadai Hungarian.

I found the first use is quick, about 2 weeks. The second use 4-6 weeks and the third use 2-3 months. Seems like each subsequent use is about double the previous batch so I'm thing the 4th use will go 6 months and the next a year. My barrels need to be topped every 10-14 days taking about 100ml each.

I'm putting mine in the barrel after stablization once the wine is clear and after it goes through the barrel it returns to a carboy for additional bulk aging. If the wine is over or under oaked I can make adjustments with unoaked wine or cubes as needed. Heavy oak taste does seem to subside somewhat after time in a carboy.

Good advice to have several batches waiting in the wings. I'd also suggest the 6 gallon over the 5 gallon.
Steve T.


#6 DonnaB

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Posted 07 February 2009 - 06:55 PM

I have a 10 gallon french oak barrel. I think the answer depends somewhat on what type of wine is being put in it. Cab could probably take a little more time on the oak then something less tannic. I hydrated my new barrel with water for about 4 days and that took lots of the oak out - shoot! The first wine in it was a zinfandel and within 4 days it was overoaked. I took it out and put it in a carboy and five months later, it is just about right. The second wine is a Barbera and that has been in there about 8 weeks and still not over oaked. I have a Cab to go in after that and hoperfully it can stay in there until I put my 09 wine in it in October.

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#7 NorthernWiner

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Posted 07 February 2009 - 10:14 PM

QUOTE (DonnaB @ Feb 7 2009, 07:27 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I think the answer depends somewhat on what type of wine is being put in it.

I agree with this statement completely. A big red Cab can soak up a lot more wood than, say, a Grenache.

I think the real key is to go by taste rather than rely on any predetermined schedule. Voon, you say that you don't know what you're tasting. That's not surprising. It can be a little tricky to detect subtle oaking. But one thing I guarantee: you will definitely know when a wine has been overoaked.

Steve Kroll
President, Purple Foot Winemaking Club
"41 Years of Fine Winemaking"
www.purplefoot.org


Wine a little... and you'll feel much better!


#8 dumcd

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Posted 08 February 2009 - 07:01 AM

QUOTE (NorthernWiner @ Feb 7 2009, 11:46 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I agree with this statement completely. A big red Cab can soak up a lot more wood than, say, a Grenache.

I think the real key is to go by taste rather than rely on any predetermined schedule. Voon, you say that you don't know what you're tasting. That's not surprising. It can be a little tricky to detect subtle oaking. But one thing I guarantee: you will definitely know when a wine has been overoaked.


Agreed with NW. I had a Carmenere in a brand spanking new hungarain oak barrel for 10 weeks, most wines would have been like plywood, but the Carm was perfectly oaked, some wines just love oak. And some people love oak, what may be too oaky for you may be just right for me.......Duane
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#9 Nonno Domenico

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Posted 12 February 2009 - 11:13 AM

QUOTE (dumcd @ Feb 8 2009, 08:33 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Agreed with NW. I had a Carmenere in a brand spanking new hungarain oak barrel for 10 weeks, most wines would have been like plywood, but the Carm was perfectly oaked, some wines just love oak. And some people love oak, what may be too oaky for you may be just right for me.......Duane


Thanks to everyone who replied to my question. It gave me a timeline to follow for ageing and tase testing (my favorite part!) BTW the barrel is American oak with a medium toast so I now know not to leave it in for even as long as I first thought. Grazie. Buona creazione di vino




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