Oak Aging Laws

I’m talking specifically about laws that require oak aging here, such as Brunello and Brunello Riserva, and Rioja, etc aging laws.

Are there specific laws denoting which type of oak must be used? French, Slovenian, American, New, 1-year, neutral? Does it have to be aged in barrels, or would larger vessels be allowed as well?
Or are the oak specifications very loose and each producer of BdM or Rioja or wherever is free to choose their own particular oak regimen as long as it fits into the laws regarding time spent in oak?


Kyle, there are quite a number of requirements for classification, but there is no oak aging requirement per se.
Reserva and Gran Reserva Riojas and also Brunello di Montalcinos have minimum aging requirements but these
are a combination of cask and bottle aging prior to release. Chianti’s have similar requirements,
for example, as between normal and riserva classification.

Hank [cheers.gif]

Right, BdM for example has a minimum 2 years in oak, and must be aged for four prior to release. Riserva spends 2.5 years in oak and can’t be released for five. At least, that is what I was taught.
Given that that information is correct, then they are required to spend time in oak. But that doesn’t really mean anything. Are there are requirements on type of oak, size of vessel, etc?

I believe you’re right that Brunello has to spend time in wood, but I don’t think it’s more specific than that. Same thing with Barolo,

I haven’t seen an appellation definition that refers to a particular kind of oak, but it’s common for the minimum months in wood to be defined for important reds (I’m speaking of Italy here). I certainly have my preferences…

I should add that better producers often exceed the minimums, for example many of the Castello di Verduno’s Barbarescos exceed their minimums. (I import these wines.) With the minimum time in wood being reduced for both Barolo and Barbaresco soon I hope that many producers will ignore the new regulations…


You are incorrect, Brunello requires a minimum four months of bottle aging before release. Rioja designations also require a minimum time in bottle.

Wow, this is getting confusing, so let me try to clear the air by saying unequivocally YES, there are regulations governing type of wood, size of barrels, and of course, duration of aging and/or fermentation in wood.

For example, Barolo can be aged in oak or chestnut, Brunello only in oak, Ramandolo in any type of wood, Vin Santo only in small barrels, called caratelli, between 50L and 200L volume, of either oak or chestnut, and Collio Picolit must be either or both fermented and aged in some type of wood.

Those are just Italian, but I imagine other countries have similarly detailed regulations.

In Rioja, there is no requirement regarding the type of oak or the age of the oak and also, I believe, the size of the container. Remembering of course, that “French” oak or “American” oak is like saying “French” grapes or “American” grapes, people use oak from various sources in France, as well as from Hungary and other European countries, and of course, the US.

Ribera del Duero follows similar requirements but they mandate 225 liter barrels. Many new producers use French oak barriques.

Thank you Chaad and Greg. Very helpful!

I suspected the French Arbois has oak specs, and sure enough, vin jaune is required aged in “fût du chêne,” (oak barrel) whereas “vin de paille” only requires passage “sous bois,” i.e. in wood. I think typically a fût is considered from barrique volume of 225L up to 600L, and I read “sous bois” as being an open spec, so fût or large foudre of various woods would be acceptable.


Good point about Vin Santo having a maximum barrel size; it’s 500L though, not 200L, according to http://www.consorziovinochianti.it/upload/disciplinari/20110119102328202_Vin_Santo_del_Chianti_disciplinare_28-08-1997.pdf

Wrong about what? The question is about wood aging, and regular Brunello requires two years in “in oak casks (of any size and origin)”: Користь і шкода їжі

See also:


It’s pretty obvious what you are wrong about as I already said, Brunello has to be aged a minimum of 4 months in bottle before release, which is ‘more specific’ than what you assert in this statement.

That is all… [cheers.gif]


I took John’s point to be ‘not more specific’ than aging in oak, ie no mention of oak size. I think you misunderstood his post.


If you are correct then I apologize.

Brent did misunderstand, but John was wrong anyway! neener

Brunello must be aged in oak, not just wood; it cannot be aged in, say, chestnut or acacia. Barolo specs either oak or chestnut, again more specific than wood.

Speaking of acacia, and to further confound things, I know an example of Nebbiolo that was aged in acacia as a single parcel wine before being blended (with other, oak aged, Nebbiolo) and undergoing a final passage in oak before being released as Barolo.

It gets complicated, and highlights how borderline scandalous it is that there aren’t more specific regulations on barrel regimens which are so clearly identified with determining the final style of a wine.

You read me write, Oliver. That was the context of my reply. At the time I hadn’t checked on the time period, but I knew that both barriques and botte were used.

Now THIS is damned interesting. Where are you getting the information? Probably easier for me to look there than to keep asking questions.

What’s funny is that I’m studying for my certified sommelier class, and I asked the question on both this board and the guild of sommeliers forum. I got a reply within hours here, it’s been a couple of days there and no answer!

Matt Stamp corrected me on Barolo and Barbaresco aging minimums (they’re just now changing, and I didn’t know it) and I import Italian wine for a living. If he’s around he’s got great information, and it’s fresh because he just took the exam.

In my opinion great producers are not limited by the rules, which have more to do with minimum levels of quality than they do with the best wines.