The use of oak in wine fermentation is very popular as it increases wine aroma and improves quality, despite the fact that it costs more money to produce oaked wine than it does to produce wine made in stainless steel tanks. Subsequently, some wineries have been searching for alternatives to oak barrels that give similar aromatic and quality characteristics to the finished wine without the high costs.

Oak chips may be added to the wine at any stage during the winemaking process, and will result in varied styles of wine depending upon exactly when the chips were added. The goal of this study was to examine the sensory characteristics of one particular type of wine (Bobal) when placed in contact with oak chips at different stages throughout the winemaking process and to identify when during the winemaking process oak chip exposure will create the wine most similar to a wine kept in oak barrels.

Methods

Bobal grapes from a vineyard in the La Mancha region of Spain were used for this study and were harvested at their optimal ripening time. Grapes were separated into 7 batches and were all processed the same up until right after skin maceration. The following treatments were applied to the grape batches:

1. Control Wine: wine without the addition of oak chips.
2. Addition of oak chips during alcoholic fermentation.
3. Addition of oak chips during malolactic fermentation.
4. Addition of oak chips post-fermentation (1 week contact time).

The three oak chip treatments were split into two sub-treatments: 3g/L dose and 6g/L dose (total 7 treatments including control).

The oak chips used were a mix of French and American oak and had medium toast.

The rest of the winemaking process was pretty standard and the same for all treatments: manual punch downs, malolactic fermentation, racking, filtering, bottling, and storing. Finished wines were stored at 16-18oC until sensory analysis was performed. All treatments were performed in duplicate …

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