The process of aging wines in barrels is crucial to the overall final flavor profile of the wine. Oak offers three major contributions to the wine, detailed below:
Oak adds flavor compounds–including aromas of vanilla, clove, smoke and coconut. Depending on the type of oak used, different flavors tend to be typical. American oak (lending flavors of coconut, dill, baking spices, and vanilla extract) and French oak (creating flavors of dark chocolate, coffee beans, and exotic spices) are the two most common.
Additionally, barrel-aging in oak allows the slow intermingling of oxygen–a process which makes wine taste smoother and less astringent. During the winemaking process, some aeration can be beneficial to the overall finished wine.
And finally, oak provides a suitable environment for certain winemaking practices, such as Malolactic Fermentation, to occur.
Barrel-aging in oak is a common practice in wine. To taste it in action, check out barrel-aged wines listed on Vinebase below!