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Old 07-17-2009, 11:34 PM   #1
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Default Can I make great red wine in a carboy or do I need a barrel?

I have a friend that makes red wine from grapes that he ages in 60 gallon barrels but I can't handle the cost and storage requirements for that so I am considering making my first batch of red wine that will be aged in carboys. I don't want to bother with making mediocre wine so my question is, Can fine red wine( I plan to use grapes at harvest time) be made in small batches that is aged in carboys at room temperature?

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Old 07-18-2009, 12:06 AM   #2
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not sure about the temperature but i would suggest keeping it between 65 and 70. as for aging, aging in a glass carboy will be fine. if you want you can add some oak chips to give it the flavor of being in an oak barrel. im sure other people with more experience can give you a better answer.

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Old 07-18-2009, 12:47 AM   #3
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Controlled oxidation is an important part of making good quality red wine, that is what barrels do, as well as adding oak flavour. There are permeable plastic vessels that you can use for secondary combined with oak chips, that will go a long way to ageing for that proper red wine flavour, but anyone in the trade will tell you there is no substitute for barrels, thats why they use them despite the expense, and why a $30 bottle of red costs $30.
really it depends how fussy you are. You can still make a very good red in glass, but it won't have those nice aged tannins you get from a barrel.

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Old 07-18-2009, 03:18 AM   #4
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You can't run before you walk. Likewise don't expect to make great wine without making a few mistakes. Don't expect perfection right out of the shoot.

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Old 07-18-2009, 06:54 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by summersolstice View Post
You can't run before you walk. Likewise don't expect to make great wine without making a few mistakes. Don't expect perfection right out of the shoot.
Amen to that. Using a barrel for your first wine would be asking for trouble.
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Old 07-20-2009, 04:36 PM   #6
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You can't run before you walk. Likewise don't expect to make great wine without making a few mistakes. Don't expect perfection right out of the shoot.
Hmmm, my first wine took a first and 2 seconds at the 3 wine events I entered it in.

Beginners luck, no doubt.

Good, but not great.
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Old 07-30-2009, 01:19 AM   #7
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A good article on wine barrels from eric asimov of the NYT.

Could the Recession Change the Taste of California Wine? - The Pour Blog - NYTimes.com

"For example, new barrels made of French oak, which have been running over $1,000 apiece. Many of those new barrels were not used because good wine requires them, but because winemakers were trying to impart the vanilla, chocolate, mocha and spice flavor that comes from new oak. Few wines benefit from this treatment, in my opinion. Too many simply are overbearingly oaky.

But barrel-aging has many benefits that go beyond layering on flavor. It can contribute greatly to the texture and body of a wine. It would not surprise me to see producers of expensive wines below the tippy-top level reducing the number of new oak barrels that they use. Perhaps they will save money by reusing older barrels, which will offer many of the benefits of barrel-aging without the burden of new oakiness.

Chardonnay producers have already been moving away from overt oakiness for several years. I expect to see even more chardonnays using no-oak marketing terms like naked, virgin, inox, metallico and the more plain-spoken unoaked. The question is will red wine follow suit. I think it will, as I think that many winemakers had already made the aesthetic decision to back away from the heavy use of oak. Now they have the economic incentive as well.

The only downside will be if wine producers instead opt for cheaper oak alternatives for the sole purpose of imparting flavor, like infusing wine with teabags of oak chips. This would have a true cheapening effect, and not in the economic sense."

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Old 07-30-2009, 06:38 AM   #8
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I understand the point Asimov is making in his article but I feel his conclusion about a cheapening effect is misguided. It's not just the producers of wine that are dealing with the realities of the economy it's the consumers as well and their tastes for superb wines can change just as fast as they're layed off 2 weeks before their pension kicks in.

Nobody notices the 'cheapening effect' when they're broke. Sure it would be great if every Joe6pack could enjoy exquisite Cabernets on the go but times change and so will tastes.

The last paragraph of his article confuses me,

Quote:
Another thing we might notice is fewer of those enormously heavy bottles so often used to convey that you have picked up (or tried to pick up) a wine of great status. Aside from the environmental cost of producing, shipping and disposing of these sorts of bottles, they are also more expensive.
Enormous bottles ? I'm guessing that he's referring to 1.5 and 3.0 litre bottles ... I haven't tried to mentally calculate this but I would wager there is more surface area of glass per ML on a small bottle compared to a big bottle... which would make his environmental / global warming argument a bunch of garbage. Ergo, his argument about disposal cost is moot as well.
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Old 07-30-2009, 11:29 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RoastedOak View Post

Enormous bottles ? I'm guessing that he's referring to 1.5 and 3.0 litre bottles ... I haven't tried to mentally calculate this but I would wager there is more surface area of glass per ML on a small bottle compared to a big bottle... which would make his environmental / global warming argument a bunch of garbage. Ergo, his argument about disposal cost is moot as well.
As a home winemaker and collector of used bottles of many styles, I'm very interested in bottles and I believe he was referring to the heavier 750ml glass bottles that upscale wineries use - the thick glass with the punts in the bottom as opposed to the thin, flat bottom bottles used in the less expensive wines. Of course I prefer Bordeaux-style bottles for that very reason (that, and they're also easier to stack) although the Burgundy and Rhone style bottles are usually just as thick. Upscale wineries like these bottles because they infer a quality product. I like them because they hold up well to several incarnations of wine.
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Old 07-30-2009, 11:49 AM   #10
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The biggest problem with heavier bottles is the extra energy needed to ship them.
These days wines in the $15-20 range are made using a mix of new/old oak and bulk aged wines. As the economy sours they will be using less new oak and more bulk ageing. Bulk ageing uses large tanks typically 10000 gallons with oak staves in racks submerged in the tanks, and micro-oxidation slowly bubbling O2 through the wine to imitate barrel ageing. These are known as "plank tanks" and although they do a reasonable job of ageing the wine, are very much frowned on by connoisseurs.

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