Product Selection and Usage

Variety of Grape: Take a ripe, say 24-25 brix Chardonnay grapes and a more youthful fruit that is 21-22 brix and the approach to the Oak Species and dosage can be quite different keeping in mind the species differences in a summary; American Oak to give flavor (aromatics) and French Oak to give structure (tannins). This is a very large statement in a very few words but it is fairly accurate to the overall performance of these two great Species! Breaking this down, the big, riper fruit may be supported best by French Oak because the higher alcohol can muffle the fruit impression and this species as a general statement will not mask the fruit it has to give. As in the more youthful fruit may indeed benefit from American Oak to help balance a thinner mid pallet and with a lower ph hold on to it’s delicate fruit nose and finish. So next comes to Toast Levels: all will contribute aromatic sweetness and fuller mouth feel. The lower the toast level the more tannins (“structure”) and lactones (“coconut”) will be present. As the toast levels increase to Medium Plus and Dark The more fullness, campfire and into black pepper, campfire and Leather are perceived in both species and deliver a depth and richness to the wine. So I believe it’s fairly safe to say that categorically the more youthful fruit the light to medium toast levels and the riper fruit the medium plus to dark toast levels. So, there are no hard and fast rules; engage mixing toast levels and species! That is what “blending” barrels is all about!

Take a Cabernet Franc that is 22.5 brix and a ripe Cab Franc that is 25 brix. As in the Chardonnay fruit discussed very similar approaches are taken as the most important part of the decision is how to preserve the fruit essences of the grape. So what if the color is lighter than you hoped, it just wants to be a “full” wine when done! The lighter toast levels with more vanillin may overtake that delicate fruit and certainly American Oak may bring on more flavors than it supports so remember the fruit, toast levels can and will make distinctly different wine from the same wine by the fact of using different toast levels. Wine Stix®  toast levels perceived aromas and flavors are listed on the web site to help you along with this challenge.

Get the Oak in Early! Now having made your choices of species and toast levels or combinations get your oak in as soon as you can. During primary fermentation there is a magic that happens between Oak and Fermenting Grapes, we can get very technical here or trust the fact that the perception of Oak Flavors at Primary Fermentation does not happen; what does happen is color binding, intergration of skin, marriage of seed and oak tannins and a overall smoothness to the wine by the end of Primary Fermentation. You know, Barrel Fermented Wines!! It has been done forever, so now it can be done with Oak Alternatives. We recommend Wine Stix® products because you can carry them through into MLF fermentation and then into long term storage, just a easy product to use. So here is the important part, keep your oak below the cap. Tie a weight on them, hold them down with a lid or stopper, just keep it below because as your fermentation finishes, the amount of CO2 diminishes and there is a potential for bacterial gremlins to set up camp; no air no growth!

Tank Products: As you work with larger volumes of grapes/wines the options open up for the types of Oak Products that can be used. Wine Stix® has Segments, Tank Staves and Bulk Carboy Sticks for Tanks. Surface area is everything, specifically “short” or end grain like saw dust, chips, beans, oak balls, spirals and cubes. Short grain products extract fast and the impact on the wine is big, often short grain products flavors and aromas diminish over a short period of time because of the ability of the wine to uptake it all at once.  Wine Stix® segments are a average of 3 inches square so this means that 6 pieces will treat 15 gallons of wine! The surface area is big but the short grain is very small, a great product for primary fermentation and takes 2-3 months for extraction as compared to a Tank Stave that is a minimum of 3 months up to 12 months for full extraction of flavors and aromas. The Bulk Carboy Sticks are handy for getting in a percentage of different species or toast level to fine tune the Oak selection process.

Neutral Barrel Products: When using a clean, neutral barrel for maturation the Wine Stix® barrel tether is a easy to get in and out product that fits in the Bung Hole of the barrel. Just put in the 8 piece Tethered strand of wood and don’t worry, we made them up in a cris-crossed  pattern so they will not “stick together” like all flat sticks do. Contact time is 3-12 months for extraction and the longer you leave them in the better it gets! Just keep the barrel topped up and watch the SO2 levels as all oak alternatives “chew up” SO2 because of the air in the wood being replaced by wine. The WineStix® bulk sticks are a way to customize your own tether to get the species and toast levels you want, it’s your wine; do it how you want!

 Carboy Products: When using glass carboys, Demi-jons or kegs base your usage as one carboy stick per 5-6 gallons of wine. They are sized to contribute the flavors and aromas as a second use Barrel so the time to extract what one Wine Stix® carboy stick has to give is a minimum of 2-3 months (depending on temp.)  Some of the best “together” wines are when the stick is left in 9-12 months! This is due to the shape and thickness of the Wine Stix®, so base your dosage on the amount of time you can wait to enjoy your wine! Don’t forget to “blend your Oak”, that is exactly what wineries do! The bulk packaged sticks are handy for this or just pick up a few     2-packs to work with. Same thing happens with SO2 being bound so keep a check on it as your oak becomes saturated with wine.