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Why Some Winemakers Are Embracing New Oak

Photo Courtesy of Getty ImagesAging wine in new oak barrels has a bad reputation in certain circles, and it’s not entirely unfounded. When used excessively, new oak can overpower the fruity or earthy nuances in wine and, in worst case scenarios, may be deliberately employed to hide disagreeable flavors or even flaws.

However, some forward-thinking winemakers have an affinity for using new oak in the cellar. Here’s why.

How (and Why) to Use New Oak

Burgundy-based winemaker Pierre-Henri Rougeot uses up to 30% new oak for fermenting and aging white wines. He finds that new oak offers a sense of security and reliability that used barrels lack.

“When you buy old oak barrels from other wineries, they can be contaminated by Brettanomyces, have too much volatile acidity, etc.,” he says. “We prefer to have the control of the barrel life from start to finish.”

Matías Calleja Ugarte, winemaker at Rioja’s Bodegas Beronia, sees several benefits to using new oak during alcoholic fermentation, malolactic fermentation and aging.