April 2016 Issue of Wines & Vines

Product Focus: Oak Barrel Alternative Products

by Andrew Adams

The days of raw-cut oak chips and discarded stave wood are long gone. Oak barrel alternative products are now available in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, toasts and even wood types. Wines & Vines checked with oak suppliers about the latest batch of alternative innovations.

Boise France of Vively’s SC100 chips are designed to bring “richness, mellowness and sweetness” to red, rosé and white wines. With an extraction time of five weeks, the chips can be used at various stages of the winemaking process, as needed. The typical dosing rate is 1 to 5 grams per liter, depending on the impact desired.

Seguin Moreau added a “Finisher” to its Oenofirst line of oak “logs” produced with compressed oak chips. The Finisher is a mix of air convection-toasted French and American oak chips and intended to provide a stable sensory profile for wines made to be consumed within one year of bottling. The Finisher can also be used to add complexity and balance to bulk wine a few weeks prior to bottling. Finisher logs are also suitable for masking vegetal aromas and can make wines “sweeter and rounder.”

Agrovin’s Spirit line of chips are made with Iberian Oak (Quercus pyrenaica) that the company says is well suited for winemaking because of its high level of oak ellagitannin and permeability. The line includes the untoasted Nature chips for fermentation, medium-toasted Structure chips to build mouthfeel and boost aromas and the “intensely toasted” Elegance chips to “elegantly maximize” the wine’s flavors while bringing out notes of caramel, coffee, smoke and licorice.

Tonnellerie Radoux’s Pronektar alternatives division recently unveiled Extreme staves that have been categorized by tannin content through Radoux’s OakScan process. The staves are available in low, medium and high tannin, and the supplier claims it offers unmatched precision for making oak additions. The company also added its Extreme line of staves that have also gone through the OakScan but are 17 mm thick rather than 7 mm. The thicker stave provides for a longer extraction time of 10 to 12 months to recreate premium barrel aging in a tank.

Oak Solutions Group added “ib” (or Integration Boost) to its tru/tan portfolio of tannin products. The product is a mix of ellagitannin derived from stave wood and gallotannin from oak gall and is intended to provide a rich sweetness to the flavor and aroma of white or red wines. Appropriate for finishing and for aging, the supplier reports ib also adds a “soft, round boost” to the mid-palate.

Xtrachene added a new barrel insert product called Xtrakit that is made of 12 linked segments of two-year-seasoned French oak. The segments are toasted with a proprietary “rotisserie” system set above an open fire of oak. Xtrakit is available in the Terroir toast that is toasted like barrel staves and Quattro, which receives some pre-toasting in a convection oven before being toasted over flames. The supplier recommends one chain per barrel for at least six months.

Gusmer Enterprises is now offering Arôbois’ Arôneo line of French oak chips. The Arôneo line consists of the Douceur, Equilibre, Fraicheur and Intense toast options that provide different flavor characteristics. The chips can be used at any point from fermentation to aging and for any type of wine. The Equilibre and Fraicheur chips are more tannic, while the Douceur and Intense have more of an aromatic effect. The supplier reports extraction occurs at three to four weeks, while recommending winemakers blend chips with different profiles to create more nuanced flavors.

OakBak is a new oak barrel alternative produced with old barrels by the Australian supplier Ausvat. The company takes barrel staves and mills them down in to “battens” of “clean, virgin wood” that are then toasted with the firm’s proprietary FIRVIN process. Thirty barrel staves can create 60 new battens, or more than 86 square feet of fresh, toasted oak. The company claims its process removes every trace of wood that has come in contact with wine, leaving no risk of off flavors being produced during the toasting process.

BSG Wine added a new toasted oak “barrel extract” to its line of tannins produced by Toasted Oak. The extract is a concentrated dose of oak tannin that can be used to mask vegetative characteristics, build mouthfeel and body and bring out certain flavors and aromas. BSG reports that for some wines the barrel extract tannin could serve as a replacement for barrels, chips or staves.

Creative Oak added a “vanilla” and “caramel” option to its line of convection-toasted American oak products. The toasts can be used to emphasize specific flavors or be incorporated into a blend of oak products. The company employs fire toasting for medium and medium-plus toasts, while using convection toast to create its line of “precision” toasts.

WineStix added a “special dark toast” option that the supplier describes as a “very dense, rich toast” that isn’t charred. Wine-Stix’s products are produced with French and American oak and what it says is a unique milling process that exposes the long and short grain of the wood, leading to a gradient of toasting that provides more flavor complexity.

Innerstave and Pa&L Specialties collaborated to produce a stainless steel frame to hold staves for wines aging in stainless-steel tanks. The frame is inserted through the main hatch of the tank and supports the staves in a radial alignment so wine can be easily circulated through them to promote extraction.

The Barrel Mill’s latest blend of oak spirals is the “Big Roast,” which features wood spirals that are “flame-finished” after toasting in a convection oven “to create a charred top layer over a medium-toasted core.” The char layer contributes a charcoal note that the supplier reports can complement lush, dark red wines.

The Wines & Vines Product Focus feature is not intended to provide a definitive listing of all available products in a particular segment or provide any comparative analysis, but rather serve as an overview of what’s new or available and also of potential interest to readers as determined by the magazine’s editorial staff.

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