From the January 2018 Newsletter:

I really need to stop drinking wine while typing these newsletters.  Back in the glass is The Spectrum…because it’s white, and dry white and I prefer dry white wines.  Love the fruit.  By the way, it’s cold up in my office.  Oh well….

During my last Wine Appreciation Class taught in November, during dinner, we had an open conversation about oak and I mentioned that most of the oak flavors from the barrels are extracted into the alcohol of the wine and not the water.  Theoretically, wine contains 13% alcohol, 86% water and 1% “other stuff” which are flavors, such as acids, etc.

So if wine age upwards of a year or so in oak, the slow extraction of oak flavors into wine bind with alcohol.  And this is easily noticed when we compare the same wine in different shaped glasses.  Due to volumetric and vapor pressures, and due to alcohol having a lower boiling point than water, alcohol, and subsequently oak aromas can become more and less noticeable due to the shape of the glass.

But what would happen if the oak flavors came from a concentrate of oak, liquified and added to wine?  Wouldn’t it just blend in as a true mixture and not be bound to the alcohol?  Makes sense, doesn’t it?

So if that is the case, liquid oak added to wine is simply a mixture, whereas barrel aged wine, oak flavors are bound to alcohol,  the oak aromas from liquid oak would be identical no matter the shape of the glass, since the oak flavors from liquid oak are a pure mixture, whereas the oak flavors from barrel aged wines are attached to alcohol.  And since alcohol’s aromatics, due to a lower boiling point, are more noticeable due to volumetric pressure and vapor pressure (btw-still drinking Spectrum) via the shape of the glass, wouldn’t it stand to reason that a true barrel aged wine will smell different out of different shaped glasses, especially the aromas of oak?  Whereas there should be negligible differences in aromatics in wine tasted and smelled in dissimular glasses if liquid oak is added.  Apparently, The Spectrum makes me more of a scientific linquist than does tea.

We tested this hypothesis with 8 couples this past New Year’s Eve.  We found a wine at “the store” that I absolutely believe is an abomination of winemaking:  Liquid tannins, mega-red, ultra-purple, liquid oak, and everything else that would lend towards a red wine headache is seemingly available in one wine.   I have samples of “liquid oak” at the winery, so I added liquid oak to a bottle of our cabernet sauvignon as a trial.   Full disclosure.  I would never add liquid oak to any wines we sell.  A sales rep dropped them off two years ago.   When we smelled our doctored cab out of different shaped glasses, no one could smell any difference in the wine.  The wine, especially the oak aromas, were exactly the same.  Then we tried the store bought wine and discovered the same thing:  no difference in oak aromas due to the shape of the glass.  Then we rinsed the glasses and tried Max’s Small Batch Red #51 and sure enough, the oak aromas were different due to the shape of the glass.

With Liquid Oak, there are several options available to the winemaker who wants to deploy this method.  By the way, I think it’s a farce to add liquid oak to wine  — the producer is basically selling a false message, a false bill of goods.  Anyway, there are varying degrees of flavor profiles available in the liquid oak with some samples containing more vanilla, more toastiness, more butterscotch, etc.  When I received the samples two years ago, I tried mixing them into an unoaked chardonnay and after 15 minutes or so tasting, I got a stuffy nose, so I think I was well on the way to getting a headache from the added oak tannins.

I hope you enjoyed this little conversation on oak.

Cheers, Jim

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