Ask Sid: Different French oaks used for wine

June 1st, 2016
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Ask Sid: Different French oaks used for wine

Question: I hear at wine tastings a lot of different French forest names being used for the oak barrels. Find it a bit confusing including a new one to me called Jupiles. Sid would help clarify all this for me?

Answer: Excellent question because oak is confusing. Oak for wine barrels is now not only coming from France but many other regions around the world. However, the French forests have produced a variety of top quality oak for a long time. Most of them are in Central France but the key to know is the tightness of the grain. Tight grains equal less porous wood and a slower release of the wood tannins. Many other factors influence the impression you get in the wine though including air drying, toasting, new vs used etc. Complicated.

My short list of the main areas would be the following – by generally tightest to looser grain order:

TRONCAIS – central France, Very tight grain
ALLIER – central France
NEVERS – central France, Medium tightness
JUPILLES – most north western forest (Loire Valley) giving a floral character to chardonnay & a favourite of Lucien Le Moine in Burgundy.
VOSGES – most north eastern forest (Germany/Alsace border) releases more tannin.
LIMOUSIN – near Limoges, More loose grain

Hope this helps.

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June 1st, 2016

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