I work with a business associate who was reared in Bordeaux and currently resides in Paris. He is convinced that there isn't enough "French oak" in France to support all the statements by wineries throughout the world, that they use French oak barrels for fermentation.

Now, I realize that this is just supposition on his behalf, but it did get me thinking on the legitimacy of PR releases using the phrase "new French oak".

So, here are my questions:

1. Where is all this French oak coming from?

2. Can oak trees grown in Hungary or Romania and purchased and sold through a French company be called French oak?

3. How does one know if the barrels really come from France? Are they stamped "Made in France"? Or is this just a marketing phrase like "Chilean Sea Bass" which is neither from Chile nor a sea bass?

Thanks Schoolmarm!
Original Post
A couple of more points:

"Fermentation" doesn't usually happen in the barrels. The barrels are for storage (aging). Frementation occurs in the vats which may be wood, oak, or cement (possibly more), doesn't spend enough time in it that people make a big deal about it.

Some wineries recycle their barrels (a lot of port gets aged in recycled barrels from French chateaus).
Also, the French had regulated forrests of Oak to supply their Military ships in the 17th-19th centuries. When wood became obsolete for ship building, it was useful for the wine industry. And why use Oak? It is watertight, or winetight! I think the French have plenty of Oak, and some wine too!
I'm French and yes ! We have a lot of oak.

When you see An French Oak, you can be sure that it's oak from France, because in my country, we try to get produce from terroir we know. For quality first, because when a winegrower buy a barrel, he discuss with the producer of barrels, and generally, they have friend relationship.

If the producer of barrels was trying to use wood plant far from his country, the winegrower will not have the guaranty of the product.
And the product for us, is really important.

It's a kind of AOC (appellation d'origine contrôlée).

If you want a guaranty, you just have to speak with the producer of barrels. Try to find a small or middle producer, and like a wine producer, he will speak with passion and love for its work and products. And if you arent convince, you can be sure that he will show you his oak and his (hood ? ) excuse me my english is bad ...

I think it's the same with everything. When I buy something, I enjoy speaking with the producer, and in conversing with him, I know that the product will be good or not. French, german, japaneese or american.
I think what your friend meant, tanglenet, is that some wineries fraudulently claim to use French oak while they do not actually use it to the extent they claim.

I believe it is a fair supposition. Especially regarding some wineries that use tens of thousands of barrels annually. The amount of barrels is too great for any authorities to control, and the only means of control then, are the records of the winery.
I'm not sure there's a problem of quantity really.

Some big champagnes like Krug uses a lot of barrels, and we know it comes from france.

See here, i had a speak with a men producing barrels. It's an old business family, who did keep the passion of his products.

There is they website : http://www.groupe-vicard.com/

I think that's a good example of production.
Now when someone say : I produce my wines in French barrels ... sure we have to take care, because if the production is too big and the wine too bad (...) there can be an problem.
Alexandre,

No doubt Krug uses exactly what they claim to use; they set their price, and sell everything regardless.

I wasn't thinking of producers who belong to the upper echelon of wine making. Rather, I was refering to something in the style of Bodegas Hermanos Disinteresadas (fictive)...
A couple of points.

1) Wine barrels can be re-used, with the interior planed and charred again. This usually is inferior to new oak and barrels typically only get used twice, but I have heard of barrels being used more often than that. A fair amount of wine in Australia proudly proclaims "aged in new French oak", but when you read the fine print you find out that only a portion of the blend was aged in new French oak, and the remainder in re-used French barrels or new American oak.

2) Once barrels have passed their usefu life the wood can be recycled as oak planks and chips in bulk winemaking. The press releases for these wines tend to leave you with the impression that the wine was aged in barrels, but doesn't actually say so.

3) American oak refers to a particular species of oak tree and can come from the US or Canada, French oak refers to where the oak was grown. I don't know if the Hungarian or Romanian oak is the same species of oak as French oak. Australia has a fair amount of English oak due to our colonial heritage, but apparently English oak is a different species of oak to French oak and is not well suited for aging wine.
quote:
Originally posted by Markus Randall:
I think what your friend meant, tanglenet, is that some wineries fraudulently claim to use French oak while they do not actually use it to the extent they claim.


Bing! Even with his French accent, I understood his humor!

By the way, is the Schoolmarm on vacation?
quote:
Originally posted by Markus Randall:
Bodegas Hermanos Disinteresadas (fictive)...



Shouldn't they use Spanish oak in Spain? Confused I seriously think there is not enough oak in France for all of the wine producing countries of EU. I can see Portuguese wineries using French oak since they chop down their own crop to make corks for everyone.
quote:
Shouldn't they use Spanish oak in Spain? Confused I seriously think there is not enough oak in France for all of the wine producing countries of EU. I can see Portuguese wineries using French oak since they chop down their own crop to make corks for everyone.


Oak trees are not cut down to make cork, they are stripped from bark. These trees, however, are indeed too valuable to use for cooperage.

Various types of oak trees have variying affinity for maturing wine. For historic reasons, Spain (as well as Portugal) have tended to use american oak, as you may well understand, to the exclusion of all other. However, in Spain, the reuse of barrels on all quality levels except the highest has tended to cloud most of the character of the oak employed. This is a gross generalisation, naturally.

French oak is now becoming more popular with upper echelon winemakers, but, as is the case with any resource, higher demand will inevitably cause prices to rise and thus set a natural threshold for the winemaker who wishes to use it.

Better understanding and methods to handle american oak for cooperage in the future, may also have an impact on the choice of wood winemakers will make.
Perhaps I'm mistaking, but I've always thought that the mention "American" or "French" of "Hungarian" oak had to do with the type of oak and not with the place the tree had been standing.
Like:
Quercus rubra
Quercus robur
Quercus patrea
Quercus palustris
Quercus coccinea
Quercus frainetto
Quercus cerris
Quercus terneri
ar all oaks familiar to our region. But some of them are called "Turkish oak", "Scarlet oak" and so on.

See?
Someone shed some light on this one, please.
Howdy Rik!

Been awhile!

Yeah, quite so, American oak is mostly Quercus Alba, but numerous other species exist. But I think you knew all that.

Q. Macrocarpa
Q. Prinus
Q. Bicolor
Q. Muehlenbergi
Q. Lyrata
Q. Stellata

are other examples.

There are differences between "European" and "American" oak, differences that makes this generalization less incorrect than the above would suggest.

The most important difference lies in how the growth rings "grow". All very complicated, but the end result is that you can saw American wood, but not European (it would leak). This is a genetical issue, and as you say, would not be affected by the place of growth.

Then, the place of growth (or climate) should to some extent effect how tight the grain is.

The fact that there exists a multitude of oak species, as well as the fact that they grow in many different climates even in America, means that from a perspective of its influence on wine, the term "American oak" remains too simplistic. Rather, it is a result of the very young tradition of quality winemaking in America as opposed to France.

Is that what you're getting at?
Hi, Markus, how goes it in those northern outskirts of our growing, yet crumbling Union?

Thanks for taking the time to add more confusion to this matter...

In a way it was what I was getting at.

Be it that my views on oaks - and trees in general - seem to be more simplistic than yours.

My starting point was, that, when my son was very little, I showed him the difference between a "local" oak and an "american" oak, comparing the rounded-off lobes on the leaves of the first and the pointed lobes on the latter.

So, my conclusion: there are American oaks in Europe.

Now if you say there are genetical differences between a tree in Europe and it's American counterpart, due to evolution, soil and radioactivity or whatever, I'll have to make the distinction between an American American oak and a European American oak.
Which makes things a lot clearer to me now.

For which I thank you from the bottom of my heart, Markus.
For Barrel making French oak is Quercus robur or Quercus petraea
American oak is Quercus alba
Hungarian oak is Quercus petraea also

American oak is higher in tyloses that seal the xylem vessles so it is less porous this means American oak staves can be sawn where as French oak must be hand split

so American oak yields more staves per same size tree than French oak

French oak is more porous which leads to more spice taste and has a higher tannin content as well

The hemicellulose and lignins in American oak offer more vanilla and toast

The Hungarian oaks grow more slowly so they have a tighter grain and have less tannin in them as well, its hemicellulose also breaks down easier so it has toastiness that is different than American oak
Quercus alba is refered to as the white oak, while American oak is in my documentation quercus rubra. Not that this matters a lot.

If I understand you well, TexasVines, the property of the American oak is that it's less porous and that it's chemical constitution gives it more vanilla and toasty aromas.

I gather this is a property to both the Quercus rubras (aka alba?) on this and your side of the Atlantic?
This is getting complicated.

I don't have much time now, but will try to get back to this later.

Quercus Alba is the dominating oak species, but that it would be the sole oak felled in the US for cooperage is an oversimplification. All the oaks mentioned in my earlier post are used, with various charcateristics influencing the wine.

The porosity is what is most oftened refered to when discussing differences, as the heavy vanillin of American barrels, but that too depends on which forest it comes from and the cooperage.
Many questions and I think many of them are based on marketing. In Chile for example, there is a company called Toneleria Nacional, which is chilean based and the one that sales more barrils (american and french oak) than other in south america, they have expanded worldwide and invented many new techniques like Odysee barrils among other. They buy the "oak wood" in many countries. You can choose the forest and the exact place of the oak is coming from, because it´s certified.

Bye the way..."chilean sea bass" really exist...the problem is that chilean we do not take advantange of that....

max

wines@andeswines.com

quote:
Originally posted by tanglenet:
I work with a business associate who was reared in Bordeaux and currently resides in Paris. He is convinced that there isn't enough "French oak" in France to support all the statements by wineries throughout the world, that they use French oak barrels for fermentation.

Now, I realize that this is just supposition on his behalf, but it did get me thinking on the legitimacy of PR releases using the phrase "new French oak".

So, here are my questions:

1. Where is all this French oak coming from?

2. Can oak trees grown in Hungary or Romania and purchased and sold through a French company be called French oak?

3. How does one know if the barrels really come from France? Are they stamped "Made in France"? Or is this just a marketing phrase like "Chilean Sea Bass" which is neither from Chile nor a sea bass?

Thanks Schoolmarm!

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