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01.23.2005

American Oak May Be On Its Way Out

Various reports and editorials lately have mused at the backlash against over-oaked wines, particularly Chardonnay. While I had no doubt that this was the case, and was even thankful for it, the real proof of the decline is what's happening to the American Oak market: it's collapsing. Or nearly. Oeneo corporation, one of the largest of America's handful of manufacturers of oak barrels has had to sell its American oak cooperage facility at a loss, after losing nearly 2 million dollars in the last couple of years.

In addition to the reduction in demand for American Oak barrels, which impart stronger wood flavors than their French counterparts, the American Oak market has been under increasing competitive pressure from the French who are now even setting up American companies to distribute their wares.

While this state of affairs undoubtedly means hard times for some people, which you never wish for, I can't say I'm particularly bummed out by the trend which it seems to signal. Very few winemakers know how to use American oak well, and for the rest, it ends up churning out wines that often have the "buttered plank" taste that so many people unknowingly tolerate and even love.

There will not be much mourning here. Here's the news story about Oeneo.

I know there are winemakers who read this site. What do you think?

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