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Snippet of Wine for Sophisticated Homies Podcast: Oak: The Quercus Circus

Last Played: February 12, 2021
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In this episode, sommeliers Ben and Jason have you over a barrel--an oak barrel Ever wonder how oak works? If barrels are important? Listen in as they cover the history of oak, how barrels are made, the flavors it imparts, and more!

Ben Draper and Jason Booth are self-described "devilishly handsome sommeliers" who also turn a good phrase when it comes to the fruit of the vine. Their podcast "Wine for Sophisticated Homies" is a wink to the sometimes too-stuffy world of wine. Ben and Jason combine wit with wisdom in their podcast, where the wine flows as easily as the jokes.
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well, like all things in the wine world. That was, of course, the Romans, the Greeks and Egyptians who began to start using barrels. And, of course, you can find reference to barrel contraptions by the over referenced Pliny or Pliny the Elder. Eventually, of course, they figured out that barrels were the way to go and particularly oak barrels. That's right. Today, oak has become the standard and wine barrels for a couple of reasons. One, It's incredibly easy to spell. And to oak has the perfect amount of ferocity. Not too much tannin and aromatic qualities that tend to work with the line rather than against it. Now. It wasn't always clear that oak was the perfect would. We tried our head and many other styles before we figured this out. Ben, why don't you go over some of the woods that they have attempted to use? Absolutely. They've tried chestnut and rally pine eucalyptus A Casey Ah, hardwoods and redwoods. But listen clear. The coopers opine there is only one would for this wine comes Quercus portray a white oak from the forest deep in friends. Okay, okay, okay. I think they get it. That was really beautiful. Thank you. Yes, many woods have been attempted and has been was saying that overly complex Christmas jingle remix that were attempts that did fail. I find the pine barrels particularly interesting because they have a tendency to live, ah, resinous quality. And because of how long the Greeks have been experiencing this taste, they've actually grown quite fond of pine resin coming from their barrels. And they now have a drink called retsina, which is made by adding in pieces of Aleppo pine resin to the must during fermentation theme. Great. Most commonly used for this is the white grape Salvati Yano, but they also will blend in a seer, Tico and Roditi Issa's, well, a some other white varietals from time to time. So that brings us to our main attraction, American and French oak in this corner. Coming in from the force of Minnesota, Wisconsin and the Appalachian Trail, these tannic would monsters will grow fast. They're white, they're wide grain. They're more in your face with their aromatics quirk. Kosovo Indigenous kuna. The two French bash brothers, tight grained brown in color, subtle in disposition. They'll impress you with how slow they can grow. Welcome to the ring. Quirk assess Ellis and Quercus Robur. Let's get ready. Thio impart qualities to the wine. Okay, so we're gonna break it down for you. Butch. Butch, Just not like that. All right, well, you let me know if you need an under the weather beat. Do you mean a sick beat, Jason? I was being sophisticated. That was sophisticated. Okay, Oak barrels are either one of two things American or French, or at least most of time and somehow just like the wines they represent, thes two different varieties have this amazing ability to mimic the qualities we actually get from the varietals. What I mean is, if you'll remember our previous podcast where we explained all the new world wine in that same way, old world oak, particularly French oak, is going to be much tighter grained and in part, much more subtle and elegant qualities in America. Like we said, you'll have Quercus Alba, which is the dominant and highly aromatic style that is used and in Oregon, specifically, they're starting to make barrels from Cork Askey Arianna, which is reported to actually be similar in quality to that of its French counterparts. And these American wine bottles different from the French wine bottles will be much more in your face, much louder with qualities that they impart. And in France, they have Quercus Cecil is where you get the ultra premium barrels coming from the forest of failure are gone Borg on never trunk and vogue. And then you have Quercus robur coming from the forest of limousine. Mm. The forest of Tron K in particular is where it is said the best barrels in the world come from. But if you ever get into a debate about this, you might find yourself arguing. Semantics. Different forests will, of course, produce different woods of different characters. Yeah, you know, if you ever done at the local pub and a couple of guys want to get into a heated debate with you about wine barrel would cause that happens all the time. Well, good point. I suppose so. Let me see if I got this summary correct. Quercus Alba is a little bit more over the top, a little bit sweeter, a little bit less delicate, whereas the French carcasses quirk, I I believe, right, Quark. I are more subtle and in part silkier, smoother flavors with higher complexity. We're generalizing. But yes, that's the gist of it. So then Quercus Alba is kind of like Jessica Alba, while Quercus Cecil is and Quercus Robur are more like Jessica Chastain. I feel like that's a very mean thing to say about Jessica Alba. You're right. I'm sorry. Tell me some of the other differences between the two styles of oak. And I'll tell you if my simile still holds true. OK, Well, French oak is much preferred to American oak. And American oak tends to be much cheaper because whereas French oak is split along the grain, American Okun be serrated, meaning that mawr of the tree can be used. Oh, yeah. See, that totally works. How does that work exactly? Hey, man, just look at Jessica Alba. You could totally chop her up in the little economical pieces, whereas with Jessica Chastain, you have to cut into a carefully and splitter apart like a proper French oak. That may be the most unintentionally creepy thing I've ever heard. You say. You realize you sound sort of like a serial killer right now? Yeah. My apologies. Not my intention. I would never chop someone up unlike Mila Kunis, who took my fragile heart and sliced it and diced it like it was some sort of carrot being prepared for classic Mier Wa buddy. But you see, that's all in your head. Does that make it any less rial? Yes, I think that makes it entirely less real. Actually, that makes it all the way less real Relationships are crazy, huh? As is the power of your mind. Thank you. I'm a certified smell chair. Well, if you indeed think that Jessica Alba is porous and has 2 to 4 times more lacked own. Yeah, she does, then I suppose you could go with Ben. Strange analogy. The important thing to note is the styles We just went over, and it's easy to remember. French oak and European oak in general is more subtle, While American Oak is a little more brash. These varieties were also found in Russia, Portugal and the Balkan states. Thes ladders, Slavonian oak barrels are very popular with certain winemakers and are often found being used in Italy. Now that we've gone over the different styles of oak used in the wine world, we should talk about how the oak is made and molded by the Cooper Gary Cooper. I thought he was dead. No, Cooper is a person that makes barrels. So Bradley Cooper does acting and makes wine barrels. No, that is his last name, not his profession. So then Anderson Cooper, that guy who makes wine barrels, like 360 days a year? No. Anderson does a show called Anderson 3 60. That doesn't references winemaking or his barrel making. He is in a barrel maker, nor does he make wine barrels all but five days out of the year. All that a. Cooper is is a barrel maker, and a barrel maker is known as a mini Cooper, uh, in France. There no Nas to Nelly's. And when the Cooper sits down to construct a barrel, there are six major parts that they will be dealing with the staves, which are the actual pieces of bent wood. The hoops, which are the metal rings which hold the staves in place. Usually, there are six of these on a typical barrel the head, the middle stave and the chime, which make up the basic components of the top and bottom of the barrel. And finally, Ben's favorite part of the wine barrel, the bung hole, which is usually just call the bung Ben. But yes, the bung hole winemakers will oftentimes die the middle portion of their barrels red with wine to conceal the dribble marks from the bunk. The last thing you want is dribble marks around your bung hole. What are you like seven years old? Jason, please be mature. I'm just talking about bung holes. When a wine is fermenting, sellers will usually place the bung facing straight up, and then when the wine is done fermenting and is ready to be aged and matured, the cellar rats will place the barrel so that the bung is facing towards 9 p.m. In order to remember where in the process that barrel is now something that has been all the rage in recent years is to use oak chips in wine. My personal favorites Air flaming Hot Cheetos and cool ranch Doritos. Nope, not what that means. Oak chips are actually just chips of the oak, used regularly in barrels and added into the wine chips of different size and quantity or use, and it can have a marvelous effect on certain wines in many cases this can save winemakers boo coo bucks in the process. What's amazing is that as recent as 2000 and 2000 and six oak chips were actually outlawed in Europe, there was a famous case where Chateau G score from Bordeaux was fined for this. And many critics still believe that they gave wine sort of a one dimensionality. Oak dust has also become popular in recent years, so this is something else that you should definitely look out for, but, uh, definitely oak chips. That seems to be where everybody is going, particularly in Australia now. Jason Cooper's aren't just known for their bentwood and their bung holes, Ben. They are also master artists in the discipline of toasting the oak. That's right. Why don't you go ahead and explain what you mean by toasting? The oak gladly would, as we all know, needs heat to bend. And it is in these three stages the warm up, the shape and the toast, also known as Presha, frog Sentras and booze. On. On that, this toasting takes place. What happens is when the fire charged the inside of the barrels. The resulting would, which is full of your Annick alga hides, which are really just those lovely roasted toasted notes you get in wine. Vanilla also reaches its aromatic peak in the stage and other phenols air activated, creating a smokier, spicier and oftentimes sexier wine. If you've ever had a red wine and thought, Hmm, this reminds me of a campfire. That quality is directly due to the toasting work of the Cooper. There's such a science to the toasting of the barrel that there is actually three degrees of toasting a barrel can receive. That's right. Those degrees are Pop Tarts, Eggo, waffle and oh, crap. I forgot I was toasting something, which is usually the least favorable of the three. Actually, that's wrong. It's just light, medium and heavy and some Cooper's will say medium plus or medium minus, which makes it sound like they don't know how to order a steak at a restaurant. Now that you know what kind of oak is used, where it comes from and how it is made, we should delve into the actual specific flavors that these barrels will impart. Now listen very closely, people, because this next line is very important. There is no such thing as it tastes like oak. There is also no such thing as mm I love the taste of oak, or I taste a lot of oak on this wine. Now, if you are out drinking wine with friends and you want to sound completely ignorant, the easiest way to do this is to mention how you love how the wine tastes like Coke, saying that it tastes like Okay, it's silly because and what is oak tastes like? This is the equivalent of saying this wine is really great. It tastes like grapes or even this chardonnay sure is nice. It tastes like Citrus. All we're saying is, try to be more specific with your descriptors terms like oak and Citrus air so broad and not entirely accurate, you should probably avoid talking about the legs to. For instance, the other night I had a Pritchard Hill Cabernet Sauvignon, the head legs like Mila Kunis. But did I say anything? Of course not, because it's one of those dumb cliches that doesn't need to be referenced. Theo. Pet peeve is a much bigger pet peeve, probably for me. Uh, now, if any of you homies out there actually think oak tastes like wine. And you think this because you literally grew up eating chunks of oak out of trees. Well, then, fine. Describe away. Clearly, you're braver than we are, but the point that we're trying to make is this. Oak doesn't make wine. Tastes like oak. Oak does, however, make wines smell like a well stocked spice rack. Think clove, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, vanilla, all spice, cigar, box, etcetera and also on the palate gives you those rich flavors of vanilla, caramel smoke, coffee grounds, tea leaves and mocha. You'll never get the taste of vanilla from a grape. You'll never get the smell of cinnamon from a grape. Thes air all imparted qualities that oak gives a wine, which shows you how important it is now for the sake of blind tasting. If you are ever tasting a wine and you get hit with strong vanilla and coconut qualities, you are probably dealing with American oak, especially if you're getting that coconut, and especially if it's on a warm region. Chardonnay. Asked to try a Rombauer chardonnay the next time you're out at your Atypical Steakhouse and you'll get what we're talking about. It's like you walked into a tropical themed party. Did you hear that the German Q MP granted Rombauer a slot right in between Speight, Lisa and I was Lisa. Funny joke. A little esoteric for our audience, but funny. It's funny because it's true. The same could be said for a lot of those New World California chardonnays in the last 15 years. Far niente from a couple of years ago. La Crema, Robert Mondavi, all of the staple warm weather chardonnays that use American oak will be brimming with these tropical and wham bam. Thank you, mam, vanilla tasting notes. That's American oak. American oak will also sometimes have dill. If you're ever doing a blind tasting and you get dill, vanilla and coconut, you've got a new world wine on your hands. Dill is what I like to call a gift from the blind tasting God's. It's also a gift from the pickle gods. That is also true. Oh, French Oak, on the other hand, is a little bit more subtle. Let me put it like this. If American oak is a hickey on the neck, French oak is a soft kiss on the collarbone. Mila knows what I'm talking about with other people. I'm sure she does. With French Hope. You'll get more spices, exotic fruits, toasted nuts like almond and walnut and even floral qualities from jasmine to rose and even cedars Cigar box. Next time you see a cigar box, open it, stick your head in it and take one giant inhale. Never forget that smell, because you'll get it constantly on wines. Now remember, these barrels will impart their magic differently, depending on how they're used. Ah, winemaker can choose to ferment his wine separately from the oak or in the barrel. Likewise, a winemaker can age his wine in the barrel for a number of years or barely at all, get it barely at all. And of course, certain wines in certain quality categories from certain countries will have certain legal aging requirements. Wine barrel sizes will differ depending on where you go and what you're drinking Now. In Bordeaux, they use 225 leader Bere ekes as they're called. These are the most common in the U. S. That's 59 gallons. This does tend to be a pretty consistent size worldwide. In Burgundy, the barrels hold 228 leaders and There are also many New world winemakers that have begun to use the Hogshead barrel, which actually holds 300 leaders or, if you prefer 79 gallons, remember, no matter what the size, the size of the barrel will affect the amount of surface area of wine that is in direct contact with the actual barrel. The smaller the barrel them or the wine is inconsistent contact with wine, meaning mawr and stronger characteristics introduced by the oak. Now, of course, it's also very important that you pay attention to the absence of oak and wine. There are, of course, many wines that don't use any oak at all because they're kept in steel and sometimes cement barrels. In fact, Shebli, one of the most famous wines in the world, is completely devoid of oak. Many Italian white varietals, old world style whites and various dry, acidic whites are all using stainless steel for their barrels Now. This may be because the winemakers, looking to preserve the light fruitiness of the wine or the citrusy elements of the grape unoaked wines, are said to maintain more of the grapes, true flavors as well as those complex, aromatic notes there, sometimes lost in the intensity of the oak barrel
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