Cabernet Sauvignon - Affinity with Oak
Cabernet Sauvignon is well-known for its ability to harmonize with oak, whether it is used during the fermentation process or when the wine ages in barrels. This not only helps to soften the high levels of tannins in the grape, but also complements its flavors of blackcurrant and tobacco with the vanilla and spice notes of oak.
The popularity of Bordeaux blends based on Cabernet can be attributed to the widespread use of 225-liter barrels, which have gained worldwide recognition. Altering the degree of oak influence during the winemaking process can significantly affect the quality of the wine produced.
When it comes to wine production, American oak is known for adding more powerful and less delicate flavors compared to French oak, especially when new barrels are used. However, even within American oak, the origin of the oak plays an important role in the wine’s flavor profile.
For example, Oregon oak has a more noticeable impact on Cabernet Sauvignon than oak from other states like Missouri, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. To create a unique flavor, winemakers often use a blend of barrels from different places and ages, similar to how they blend different grape varieties.
To regulate the impact of oak on the wine, producers have the option to choose different barrels from the ones usually used. The use of larger barrels makes the wine have less of a woody flavor. In some cases, Italian and Portuguese producers prefer to use barrels made of other types of wood, such as chestnut or sequoia.
Some wine producers opt to age in stainless steel tanks or use alternative methods such as tea bags with oak chips or adding oak staves during fermentation. These methods are less expensive than traditional oak barrels, but result in a more intense oak flavor that does not blend well with other wine components and lacks the gradual oxidation benefits of barrel aging.