You are right. It is a combination of many things, such as the origin of the oak, the seasoning of the wood, the pH, TA and alcohol levels. I think if you put pinot into barrel right after primary fermentation, the wine has a better chance of marrying with the wood right away.I think wines with less than 14% alc and good acidity stand up to oak better. Then there is the question of cellar temperature.
When I made Ici la Bas Oregon Pinot with Jim Clendenen, we found that those wines did very well with 100% new oak, but that the Anderson Valley wines tended to do better with half thata,tho we made Chardonnay with one vineyard that was fantastic with 100% new.
Of course, a lot of it depends on when you plan to drink it/sell it. The advantage of being DRC is that nobody gets their 2015s and says, Boy, let’s pop open a bottle tonight. Every body waits at least ten years.
Heavy toast can impart sweetness, rather than toastiness, and that can fool people.
There is also the psychological side of it. If I am selling our Uvaggio Vermentino, a wine that gets its kiss of oak when the hose goes through the barrel cellar, people who know what I did for a living sometimes find it oaky.
I will see the GM of the cooperage next week and will ask.
When I was working full-time, winemakers would call up and say, I want a light toast. My first question was, when did you get back from Burgundy?? Somebody in Oregon told me Henri Jayer used light toast. I had pictures of their barrel being made…very dark on the insides.
Andre Noblet told Zelma Long and me that there was just a kiss of toast on the insides. Later, I saw the barrels being made. I would have called it medium, maybe medium plus.
Something that is crucial in understanding barrel making and its influence on wine flavor: longer the seasoning of the wood —done in the right places of course–the more subtle the oak flavor and toastiness in the wine.
Where the wood is seasoned is crucial. You want lots of wind and rain. The wood is not just drying but is changing. Hot spells are not good which always made me worry about wood that was seasoned during hot and dry years like 2003.
I did not realise that this was a post that was started seven years ago!
Re light toast:
1/the wood has to be well seasoned…otherwise the wine can taste harshly tannic
2/how the wine is made is also crucial…racking ‘clean’ wine into new barrels can be a disaster…more rough tannins
I did participate at an oak seminar held by Taransaud years ago. Very educational. Same wine, different barrels. Wood from France, US, Slavonia. Well seasoned and less well. Light, medium, dark toast. Not surprising: very different results. After that experience the conclusion was that we drink more oak than wine. Surely a bit overblown. But only a bit. The oak is a major factor of the taste and quality of a barrel aged wine.
BTW: I thought the seasoning plays a bigger role than the toasting when it comes to the quality of the finished wine. The oak will be better integrated and the tannins smoother.
What is they say in the Bible, Don’t put old ideas into new goatskins??
Let me add a little historical perspective. Back in the 70s virtually all reds were fermented in tanks, racked,put through ML in tank, and then they would go into barrels after Christmas. Dick Graff came back from Burgundy with the idea of racking the wine right after fermentation. He might settle the press results but that is all. ML took place in barrel. He got much better oak integration. This was radical for the time. In the mid 80s winemakers with a shortage of tank space started to do the same thing with Bordeaux reds. When I toured Bordeaux around 1987 with Dave Ramey and John Hawley, they mentioned that they were doing this. Everyone thought this was whacko. Five years later Pascal Chattonet spread this idea around Bordeaux. This is good and bad for the coopers because nobody in the Northern Hemisphere wants barrels after Xmas.
Was this a Grand Jury thing??
I remember being invited to Villa D Este but I think I sent my assistant.
Taransaud puts a lot of effort into these seminars.I think the last one we did here was in 2015. I arranged an experiment with different lengths of wood drying. Everyone said they wanted to attend but there were around 40 no shows out of 150 invitees…I don’t think they ever did one here on that scale again.