Neutral American Oak Barrel vs Neutral French Oak Barrel

Would there be any practical difference between the two?

If they’re really neutral (5+ years old) then I’d say no…they’ll be the same. If they’re younger than that, then they’ll have subtle amts of oak…might not be enough to notice but it’d be a small difference.

Thanks Eric.

I’d extend the time for getting a truly neutral barrel out considerably farther than Eric, but I would agree that once it is “neutral” there should be no difference.
Best, Jim

I don’t have any experience with American oak, but I agree with Jim that a 5 year old barrel will still impart oak flavors and its impact not considered “neutral.”

Much like our republic, I have been surprised more than once at American oak’s resistance to neutrality.

French oak is much less resistant.

If I am looking to give a wine zero oak impact, I make sure we avoid American of any age.

Oak as proxy for political stereotypes.

Good points…after I posted I wondered if 5 years was the right number. Course, all I make is pinot, which is better than many people appreciate at absorbing oak. One of my pinots was in all second fill barrels, and many ask if it didn’t see any oak. Syrah (and others) is a much better vehicle for detecting oak.

All I have worked with is Cabernet, so it’s a pretty small view. I use a very low percentage of new oak - and always French - and I am frequently amazed at how much flavor comes from older barrels. Right now I have 2 barrels that were new for my 2005 vintage holding 2012 Cabernet. They came from the same cooper, and yet the flavors of the wine from those two barrels are very different. There is no other variable involved - same block, same pick, same everything.

Pinot Noir is allergic to american oak of any age. If its any other varietal then 5+ years seems pretty neutral in my experience. Even a neutral barrel can give a wood flavor/character but not the tannic, color, spice, etc. impacts.