Added: 16 Jan 2013
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This term means the wine ageing in a 225 liter oak barrel burnt inside. It is mostly red wine and the ageing period may last from several months to two or three years. The wine is enriched by the aroma and taste of the burnt wood.
The number of the volume of barrique barrels is actually not based on any myth or poetic story. It is only practical, because 225 liters is the volume that may be handled by one man. It is the limit volume that may be disposed by one individual. The oak barrels are 82 centimeters high and maximum 59 centimeters wide. They were first made in Germany, Italy and France more than forty years ago. In the beginning, they were made of chestnut wood, however, later, due to the lack of chestnut wood, it was substituted by several types of oak trees.
Why specifically the oak? That wood allows slow oxidation during which aromatic and taste elements penetrate into the wine. They may differ by the type of burning the barrel. If the oak is burnt for a short time, 15 minutes, the resulting wine is rough and wood-tasting. Half an hour burning produces finer wine with sweet vanilla type or even liquor flavour. Sometimes, you may feel roast or smoke aroma, or even roast coffee. The longest burning lasts for approximately three quarters of hour, and the resulting product has caramel and coffee aroma. However, the barrels with the longest burning are filled only by the best wines made in that year. The oak may be used for ageing only twice, maximum three times. The wine that rests in an older barrel is not identified as “barrique”. Such „old“ oak barrels are used for ageing of normal wines or for making new barrels that will undergo a new burning process. They are excellent for making rum and brandy spirits.
For manufacture of oak barrels, the wood from European or American oak trees is used most frequently. The white oak, the summer oak, the French or the winter oak, all of them have different properties due to the region and climate where they grow. The French oak wood gives the oak wine finer taste with vanilla “female” aroma, the oak wood from Central Europe or Germany produces rough full “male” taste. An alternative between the oak barrel and the stainless-steel or concrete tank is the technology developed in Australia. The stainless-steel vessels have inside rotating panels or even wooden rotating wheels through which the wine flows, thus sucking the oak flavour. That technology is called “pseudo barrique” because the wine never takes the sensoric properties from inside the barrel, but only from the wooden chips. They were a side product in manufacture of barrels. The best way is to barrique the wines whose taste is not full – the red ones. Although the white wines have more distinctive bouquet, they are also barriqued in some countries, as it is required by the local market.
As the manufacture of oak barrels is expensive, they are used only for top wines of famous brands. The cheapest of them will age in barrels for several months, the standard oak wines for approximately two years, and the best and more luxury red French wines for three years. Without that period, the wine would never have such unique taste which may be provided only by the barrel burnt from the best quality oak wood. However, no barrel is like another barrel, and the barrel wine cannot be confused with the barrique wine. In manufacture of barrels, the oak wood must be treated very carefully and cautiously. The wood must have good origin and must come from certain region that is known for its quality – France, mountainous forests in Hungary, Slovenia, U.S.A., and German, Austrian or Czech forests. Upon selection of the right wood, the manufacturing process starts.
First, the wood passes through the stage of drying that may be performed either in a kiln or in open fresh air. The latter method is naturally more appropriate, because the wood is processed in nature. The barrels are more frequently made of cut wood, rather than of chopped wood, which is more expensive and demanding. The individual parts of the barrel are made by cutting the oak tree, however, possible leakage may be a disadvantage. The most effective method is to make barrels by chopping the oak wood. The liquids never leak through such barrique wood. The disadvantage of this method is excessive waste left after chopping the wood, which requires more trees for making the barrels.
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