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Old 12-05-2008, 08:37 PM   #1
KENfromMI
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Default Type of oak for Syrah from CA. juice

Been kinda stuck in a rut using French Oak for most of my wines from CA. juice. Doing my first batch of syrah this year along with the usual suspects of Cabernet, Merlot, Pinot and Sangiovese, they had two types, syrah and petite syrah. The petite description was more tannins then the standard syrah at the wine shop. I'm wondering if anyone has made this style and experimented with different oaks, also wondering at blending times will two different oaks not be a good thing. I've never tried Hungarian oak, can anyone tell me the difference between Hungarian and French on the flavor profile? I've used American oak on some Zinfandel before and it was pretty good but no experience with Hungarian. Thanks in advance, Ken

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Old 12-05-2008, 10:02 PM   #2
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I have two Hungarian oak barrels and I love the flavor profile. I can't really contrast the differences with the others because I've never used Hungarian oak chips - only the barrels. By all accounts, American oak is the most agressive (and requiring the least amount of contact time) and French is the most passive, flavor-wise. Hungarian is in the middle.

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Old 12-06-2008, 12:51 PM   #3
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Solstice, have you ever blended say a Hungarian oaked Syrah with a french oaked Cabernet? Or do you believe in only blending the same types of oak? I've never blended two different oaks before. Wondering if it would be bad, good, or indifferent, Ken

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Old 12-06-2008, 02:52 PM   #4
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Ken, I have a Premium kit from Cellar Craft - a Red Mountain (Washington) Syrah - that's been bulk aging for 10 months in a Hungarian oak barrel. I didn't use the oak chips that was supplied with the kit because I intended to bulk age it in Hungarian oak.

It would be difficult doing a precise side by side comparison since you'd have to use the same toast and amounts but you'd have to provide different exposure times due to one imparting more flavor more quickly. The same would be true for barrels since the barrels would both have to be the same age having both held similar wines but with different exposure times.

I have made some premium kits that were supplied with both French and American oak and have made other wines with mixed oaks and they turned out fine. Really, I don't think my pallet would be able to distinguish between oak from different countries. The amounts and times of exposure, obviously yes, but I doubt I'd be able to guess the country of origin.

I can tell you there's a world of difference between chips and barrel aging. The barrels add the extra dimension of the diffusion and concentration of the wine over a long period of time. The disadvantages of a barrel are, obviously, price, and the fact that you have to move different wines through the barrels at different intervals to avoid over-oaking in newer barrels.

French oak seems to be the oak that's preferred in ultra premium wines so I guess that says something. I'm sure there are those who can detect the subtle differences, but I'm not one of them.

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Old 12-07-2008, 01:38 PM   #5
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Solstice, I wouldnt be against investing in some barrels but I read your cellar area has to be a certain % of moisture or they will dry out. As of right now I have only a wine bunker under my stairs with no temp and humidity control so I'd be afraid of ruining the barrels. I was also told that the barrels are only good for so many uses and then the flavor no longer will come out, is that true? Ken

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Old 12-07-2008, 02:24 PM   #6
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I don't have a humidty controlled basement and I live in a relatively dry part of the country. My barrels are continuously full of wine. When a wine is ready to leave the barrel, another goes back in, usually within the hour. The wine in the barrel keeps it hydrated. True, you have to top off the barrle about once a month or so, but it's this process that makes wine from a barrel so tasty. This evaporation is known as "the angels' portion" and concentrates the flavors.

It's also true that a barrel will, after 3-4 years, eventually lose it's ability to impart the oak essence into the wine but, as stated earlier, that's just one of the advantages of a barrel. A lot of people seek out these so-called "nuetral" barrels for the purpose of bulk aging wines. Barrels are much better for this than an inert glass or stainless vessel.

The Syrah in my Hungarian barrel is likely the last wine to go into that barrel for the oak it receives. My plan is to make a Port-style wine, similar to one I've made in the past (the After Midnight Port-style recipe is posted in the recipes section) and allow it to bulk age for one year. I will then make another batch in an amount one-half of the original batch. I'll remove half the contents of the barrel and fill, thus keeping half the wine in the barrel for an extended period, like fine Tawny Port. I've tasted these home amde port-style wines and they're fantastic!

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