Wine + Wood = Wow
22 April 2019
What do Barolo and Amarone share in common? Apart from being two of the most beautiful examples of the 5-star Italian enology, they both need to be aged in wood before being released on the market. Wine aging is one of the most intriguing steps in the production of amazing wines. But is every wine meant to be aged? And what does aging add to wines? Keep on reading the article to find out more about this magic process.
“Il vino buono invecchiando migliora” as the Italian saying goes. Literally, it means that good wines improve year after year… but is it always like this? Well, it depends on the features of the wine. In fact, not every wine can benefit from aging. Many wines have to be enjoyed fresh and young — when you can smell and taste their floral and fruity notes. It is usually better to drink this kind of wines within 1 or 2 years maximum so that they preserve their fresh and vibrant character: this is the reason why many whites and rosè are not suitable for aging. On the contrary, wines with high acidity, a good level of sugar and lots of tannins are perfect to be aged. In fact, if you drink one of these wines after one year from the vintage you will probably not appreciate them, since the tannins will be too sharp and harsh, leaving your mouth completely dry.
Today, winemakers from all over the world use different refinement techniques: from aging in stainless steel or concrete tanks, to aging in amphoras as the Greeks used to do. However, wood — especially oak — is often the first choice.
Wine aging in wood
Everything started more than 2000 years ago, when Romans began to expand their empire not only in the Mediterranean area but also in Northern Europe. Here, they met the Gauls, a Celtic population, who used to transport beer in oak barrels. For the Romans, this was something amazing: oak was easy to find in central Europe and it was water resistant — the perfect replacement for out-of-fashion amphoras! From that moment on, wine aging in wood has become one of the main practices in the winemaking process. That’s because, through refinement in wood:
- Tannins become softer
- Wine gets smoother and evolves slowly
- The bouquet becomes richer
- Acid levels fall down
- Oak releases notes of vanilla, tobacco, coffee, chocolate and spices
Many factors can influence the effect oak can have on wines, such as the size of the barrels, the months of aging and even the kind of oak (French oak usually gives sweeter notes like vanilla while American oak releases into wines stronger scents like tobacco or leather).
Wine, wood and Valpolicella
Refinement in wood plays a major role in Valpolicella’s wine production. Ripasso, Amarone and Recioto (3 out of the 5 Doc and Docg swines that come from this area) must indeed undergo a period of aging in wood. However, in the disciplinary of production (a document containing all the rules winemakers have to follow to produce these three wines) there is no indication about the type of wood producers have to use nor the size of the barrels. This means that every winery can use wood aging as a special ingredient to make their wines unique.
Tasting the same kind of wines from different wineries will make you understand how great the influence of wood can be on a glass of wine. Would you like to try? Then join us for a Half day two amarone or a Full day three amarone wineries tour: we are waiting for you!