- Aging barrel
An aging barrel is a barrel used to age
wineor distilled spirits such as whiskey, brandy, or rum.
When a wine or whiskey/whisky ages in a barrel, small amounts of
oxygenare introduced as the barrel lets some air in (compare to microoxygenationwhere oxygen is deliberately added). Oxygen enters a barrel when wateror alcoholis lost due to evaporation, a portion known as the " angel's share". In an environment with 100% relative humidity, very little water evaporates and so most of the loss is alcohol, a useful trick if one has a wine with very high proof. Most wines are topped up from other barrels to prevent significant oxidation, although others such as vin jauneare not.
Wine aged in small new oak barrels (
Barrique) takes on some of the compounds in the barrel, such as vanillinand wood tannins. The presence of these compounds is dependent on many factors, including the place of origin, how the staves were cut and dried, and degree of "toast" applied during manufacture. After roughly three years, most of a barrel's flavor compounds have been leached out and it is well on its way to becoming "neutral."
The tastes yielded by French and American species of oak are slightly different, with French oak being subtler, while American oak gives stronger aromas. [http://www.robertmondavi.com/WineFacts/oakBarrel.asp Oak Barrels: French vs. American] ] To retain the desired measure of oak influence, a
winerywill replace a certain percentage of its barrels every year, although this can vary from 5 to 100%. Some winemakers use "200% new oak", where the wine is put into new oak barrels twice during the aging process.
Bulk wines are sometimes flavored by soaking
oak chipsin them instead of barrel aging.
Barrels used for aging are typically made of oak, but
chestnutand redwood are not unknown. Some Asian traditions (e.g. Japanese sake) have been known to use Japanese cedar, which imparts an unusual, minty/piney flavor. And in Latin America, " Pisco" is aged in earthenware: minerals from the fired clay leach into the liquor giving it a unique flavor.
Even dating back to the
1st century, Pliny the Elderdescribed how aging barrels were used by wine producers in the Alps.
beers are also sometimes aged in barrels which were previously used in aging harder spirits, thus imparting characteristic and distinctive flavors to the beer. Lambicbeers are aged in used wine barrels. Porters are sometimes aged in bourbon barrels.
Angel's share is a term for the portion (share) of a wine or distilled spirit's
volumethat is lost to evaporationduring aging in oak barrels. The barrels are typically French or American oak. In low humidityconditions the loss to evaporation may be primarily water. However, in higher humidities, more alcoholthan waterwill evaporate, therefore reducing the alcoholic strength of the product.
Glossary of wine terms
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