I use two oak barrels, 10 gal for reds and a 15 gal French oak barrel for
whites and I feel this is the best way to age and oak the appropriate
varietals for several reasons. I do understand that this is not for
everyone, especially when starting out, as it is expensive and there is
extra work required.
I have previously used oak chips purchased in a bag from a wine supply
shop, and although I have not personally tried it, I understand from a
very good source that oak chips can be toasted. I think this can be done
on a barbeque or grilled in the oven. For light toasting, the chips
should be removed just as they begin to turn a light brown.
In response to Kevin Brushett's queries about the use of oak chips, this
is the art side of winemaking and one of the pleasures in making wine
is that the "proof of the pudding is in the taste." The level of
oakiness is very much a personal choice. Obviously you want a balanced
wine and do not want the oak to overwhelm the characteristics of the
vinifera. This is a good opportunity to experiment and learn. In the
future you might consider breaking your wine into three smaller
batches after the secondary fermentation is finished or almost
finished and have a control batch without oak chips and two other
batches one with oak chips for 2-3 weeks and the other for much
longer. Have your friends do the blind tasting, see which one they
like best and if they can guess as to levels of oakiness.
With pinot noir, the red grape of burgundy, oak aging is standard
practice and has been the tradition for decades with this variety in
With respect to your question on aging in the carboy rather than
individual bottles, I routinely age in carboys and have a few with 1996
Chardonnay and Riesling wines. They will probably be bottled soon. I
understand that wine ages more slowly in bottles than it does in bulk
although this is difficult to verify.
> The "sawdust" type of oak was probabally a type of Oak-Mor, which is a
> very fine powder. It is included with some kits to add to the primary.
> The powder circulates pretty good during the primary stage when the
> yeast is floculating (sp).
> This topic interests me as well. I've been trying different types of
> wood in different sizes, during different stages of fermenting. I'd be
> interested in the size and country of origin of the "chips" that ou used
> in your batch.
> I have been working with the following:
> Oakmor: (the sawdust)
> Franch Oak shavings: (these are made from actual french oak barrels,
> and are lightly toasted. they are about the size of pipe tobacco in
> it's processed form).
> We also have american toasted oak, which is about the size of a dime or
> quarter. Haven't used them yet.
> FYI - my latest oak experiment was using approx 2oz French oak shavings
> in A Vintage Harvest 3gal. Porto kit. I added it during the last 10
> days of clearing. (we'll see how the kit comes out, never made a
> concentrate Port,,,,) Last night I bottled a Cuvee Vendange Shiraz,
> which included approx 2oz of Oak-Mor, which was added to the primary.
> I must admit I'm a "babe in the woods" when it comes to oaking wines,
> and hope to learn some great techniques.