April 2018 Issue of Wines & Vines

Oak Barrel Alternatives

Suppliers seek to provide greater precision in alternative oak products

by Andrew Adams

Rather than just mimicking barrels or offering an affordable way to add oak impact, barrel-alternative suppliers are now selling products they claim provide an even greater degree of precision in terms of flavors and aromas to help winemakers achieve certain style characteristics. Several new products that debuted at the recent Unified Wine & Grape Symposium are designed to work with specific varietals, provide certain sensory notes or just get wines past the finish line and ready for bottling.


The new XtraPure and XtraVan oak chips by Xtrachêne are described by the French supplier as a "winemaker's best ally to protect must and wine from destructive oxidation." The French oak chips offer a high level of anti-oxidant capacity and receive a gentle heat treatment that makes them similar to untoasted oak. XtraVan chips add notes of vanilla and "extend generosity and roundness on the palate." The chips are produced with mainly French sessile oak and some American white oak, and are best used for long seasoning.


Seguin Moreau expanded its line of Oenofinisher logs that are produced with compressed oak chips. The cooper is now offering a Toast Booster log that requires just one week for full integration. When used with red wines, the Toast Booster delivers spice, roasted or smoked notes and added volume or roundness. The product also can be used as a finisher or during the primary fermentation of white wines to add smoke and spice notes with increased complexity and palate length. A Vanilla finisher should be released later in the year and can be used to provide more sweetness and texture.


The Magic Staves by French cooperage Le Grand are the same ones the company uses to produce barrels but meant to be used as tank inserts. The 27-mm staves are produced with fine-grain, 24-month-seasoned French oak and require a similar amount of time as barrels to achieve optimal results of softening and enhancing the texture and mouthfeel of a wine.


Calistoga, Calif.-based Nadalie USA expanded its line of Oak Add-Ins with a new oak chain for white wines. The chains are available with 18 segments for 18% new oak equivalent (NOE), 34 pieces for 33% NOE, and 48 pieces for 50% NOE. The chains can be used in tanks or barrels and during fermentation or aging to add notes of minerality, spice and fruit.


Designed for specific varietals and long-term aging, Oak Solutions Group's ?vOak Latitude series of products has been expanded to include 33° Mendoza and 42° Rioja. The Mendoza is meant for Malbec wines and designed to emulate the "fresh woodiness" of a new, French oak barrel as well as boost "fruit juiciness" while providing a structural backbone to the wine. The supplier reports the staves can also be used for robust red blends without overpowering them. The Rioja "tames the high tannins of Mediterranean tannins" in such varietals as Tempranillo while adding vanilla and toast sweetness. The Latitude products are available as staves or cubes and are recommended for a minimum of four months.


French barrel-alternative manufacturer Vivelys introduced new tank staves as part of its Boisé product line. The Inspiration line of staves are a first for Vivelys and are produced with the same methods that the supplier claims gives it unmatched precision in developing certain flavor profiles. The staves are produced with 100% French oak and toasted based on the wood's structure and tannin content. The 07.1 stave is designed to add "an additional sensation of ripeness" with notes of vanilla and some sweetness with an extended palate. The 07.5 staves can add "freshness and complexity" from its toasted and smoky notes as well as some sweetness and "aromatic persistence." Both staves can be used during primary fermentation or following malolactic fermentation, and the recommended dosage is two to three staves per hectoliter (26 gallons.) The Inspiration line is distributed in the United States through G3 Enterprises.

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