Few have actually spent time gnawing on a piece of oak, but some know the scent well enough, having perused the selections at their local lumber yard. Some may have even tried their hand at drilling, cutting or planing in the service of one or another project. Many more know the flavor of oak, even if they never identify it as such, thanks to the popularity of whisky, rye, and bourbon, all of which usually taste of planks cut from American forests. The oak we find in wine, on the other hand, more often hails from France (though wine barrels are manufactured from forests all over Europe). The interaction between wine and the wooden vessels used to make and age it is one of the few things in the world that approaches alchemy. Oak smooths, sweetens, spices, and polishes wines in ways that range from imperceptible to completely ostentatious. In some wines, oak announces its presence with more texture than flavor, while in others it screams like a cross-cut saw in mid-bite. Opinions differ on whether the flavor of oak is best when strong or subtle, but none can deny that wine as we know it could never have come to be without wood.
Girard "Artistry" Proprietary Red, Napa Valley, California, USA
Sea Smoke "One Barrel" Pinot Noir, Santa Barbara County, California, USA
Samuels Gorge Grenache McLaren Vale, South Australia
Alois Kracher "Nummer 5 Nouvell Vague" Traminer Trockenbeerenauslese, Burgenland, Austria
Opus One Bordeaux Blend, Oakville, Napa, California, USA
Takler "Regnum" Red Blend, Szekszard, Hungary
Domaine Thibault Liger-Belair "Les Saint-Georges" Nuits-Saint-George Premier Cru, Burgundy, France
Cantine Russo "Rampante" Red Blend, Etna, Sicily, Italy
Covenant "Lavan" Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California, USA
A wine book like no other. Photographs, essays, and wine recommendations. Learn more.
Warm Up: The North Fork of Long Island I'll Drink to That: Kareem Massoud of Paumanok Vineyards 2015 Family Winemakers Tasting: August 16, San Francisco I'll Drink to That: Ryan Looper of T. Edward Wines Lost Treasures in the Sierra Foothills: The Wines of Renaissance Vineyards Warm Up: The Wachau I'll Drink to That: Leo Alzinger of Weingut Alzinger Petaluma Gap Wine Tasting: August 8th, Petaluma, CA I'll Drink to That: Monica Samuels of Vine Connections Vinography Images: Cool Climate Chardonnay
Wine Will Never Smell the Same Again: Luca Turin and the Science of Scent Forlorn Hope: The Remarkable Wines of Matthew Rorick Debating Robert Parker At His Invitation Passopisciaro Winery, Etna, Sicily: Current Releases Should We Care What Winemakers Say? The Sweet Taste of Freedom: Austria's Ruster Ausbruch Wines 2009 Burgundy Vintage According to Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Charles Banks: The New Man Behind Mayacamas Wine from the Caldera: The Incredible Viticulture of Santorini Why Community Tasting Notes Sites Will Fail Chateau Rayas and the 2012 Vintage of Chateauneuf-du-Pape A Life Indomitable: The Wines of Casal Santa Maria, Portugal Bay Area Bordeaux: Tasting Santa Cruz Mountain Cabernets Forgotten Jewels: Reviving Chile's Old Vine Carignane The First-Timer's Guide to Les Trois Glorieuses of Hospices de Beaune