Sunday, November 4, 2007

What does wood do to wine?

Long ago wine was stored and transported in an amphora (a large ceramic container). Nowadays, with the exception of the rogue winemaker, the only places to find amphorae are museums. These days winemakers have many decisions about the vessel in which to ferment and store their wine. In fact, the choice of containers is actually an integral part of the art of making wine. And with increased technology, the choice has become far from simple. It's not just a question of whether to put the wine in metal or wood; there are many other factors to consider. As I set out to list the numerous decisions that face the winemaker, I started to hear a version of Dr. Seuss' One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue fish in my head... only instead of fish we are talking about wood. So here is my Ode to Dr. Seuss; an attempt to explain the ever so complicated relationship between wine and wood. Read the following poem to get a sense of... oh the places wine can go (read it out-loud, find your teacher voice and really get into that sweet sing-song rhythm that you can remember your first grade teacher using during read-aloud time)

Wood and Wine - An Ode to Dr. Seuss

New wood, old wood,
French wood, bold wood
cheap barrels, true barrels
used barrels, new barrels
Oh where should all my wine go?

Wine in big barrels
Wine in small barrels
Wine in tall round oak barrels
I just don't know!

Short time, long time
sometime, no time
wood at the beginning or wood at the end
wood wants to be my wine's best friend

Oak makes wine smell like vanilla and taste like spice
Some people hate it and some think it's awfully nice
Oak in chips or oak in powder,
We could make a wine chowder!

Would you ever know,
how wood could be
wine's friend or foe?

Fluent readers - for a full length explaination on the use of oak in wine making go to Oak(wine).

Tasting Notes:
2001 Vina Salceda Reserva, Rioja
This wine is restrained, classy and complex. Served at "cellar temperature" it was deliciously flavored with vanilla, wood and subtle red fruits. It is a dry wine, with sturdy tannins and without the hot, high alcohol content that is prevalent in many new young wines. We drank it with mushroom risotto served in a roasted carnival squash and simply sauteed chicken with a white wine sauce.
The back of the label...
Vina Salceda, "founded in 1969, is located in Elciego, an area of Rioja with a privilged microclimate and soil. Vina Slceda Reserva has been made with selected, handpicked traditional Rioja grape varieties Tempranillo (90%) Graciano (5%) and Mazuelo (5%) from our own vineyards. Aged for 18 months in American oak barrels. Store at cellar temperatures and conditions. 20.99


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