Babette on a Barrel. Picture by Sterling Haynes.

Wanda Haynes,

Certified Sommelier

Wine Barrels

An important step to producing wine is the use of an oak barrel. There are three countries that dominate the wine barrel industry.

French Oak

French white oak is considered prized and the best oak to make into barrels.

The forests in France are the source of five predominating species of oak trees.

Allier Forests is in the center of France and west of Burgundy.

Within Allier is a grouping of French oak trees called Tronçais. They are revered for producing luxury barrels.

Northeast of Allier and Troncais is Nièvre and this oak helps preserve the freshness and aromatics of white wine.

West of Alsace the Vosges Forest has been a popular source of oak for 40 years. The wood has a tight structure, and the color is near snow white.

In western France the Limousin forests are northeast of Bordeaux and are great for aging chardonnay. 

American Oak

Minnesota, Missouri, and Wisconsin are known for producing the finest barrels. One oak tree only produces two barrels, which holds around 59 gallons of wine.

American Oak imparts flavors of coconut, caramel, and vanilla into the wine.

These barrels are popular with winemakers in Spain and Australia. 

Hungarian Oak

Hungarian oak comes from forests in Slovakia, Romania, and Hungary. These barrels offer structure and tannins to wine quicker than French oak.

Malbec and cabernet sauvignon are strong enough to hold up to the nutty flavors the wood offers. 

Babette is a character from “Sketching with Sterling” on WCTV. Click link to view episodes on WCTV in Wadsworth, Ohio.

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