When it comes down to business, “Barrel Tastings” take on a whole new meaning.
For vintners around the globe, the difference between Coopers can seriously make or break your vintage. Just as traditional Shiraz from Australia is always aged in American Oak, the bulk majority of Oregon Winemakers, tend to favor French Oak Barrels over any other.
Coopers, the artisans responsible for crafting these barrels, can vary diversely, just like artists and their mediums.
First is the wood. Where it comes from. The flavor profile it embarks without any toasting. Whether is is White or Red Oak. Its terroir & the way in which it is cultivated.
Next, the grain & staves. Is it finely grained? Long staved? Medium grained or neutral?
Most importantly, the toast. A process in which the barrels are literally charred over open flame, producing a charcoal that helps to not only filter the wine through evaporation, but also impart tannins from both the wood & smoked-scorch. This classification can range from Light Toast, to Medium, Medium-Long, & Long.
Every winemaker’s style is different, but the only real way to classify these subtle nuances for your own style is to taste them, side-by-side. For a barrel dealer, this is imperitive. The result, is an event, centered around multiple wine varietals, aged for various lengths in various barrels with all offerings of toast.
Enter into such an event, and you are truly in for a treat. Aside from the occasional Viognier or other unique white varietal, you will taste a variety of Chardonnays. If you are lucky, one will far outshine the rest, like Maison Joseph Drouhin, 2011 Chassagne-Montrachet “Morgeot” Premier Cru, aged 12 months in 33% New Oak, 33% 2nd Fill, and 33% 3rd fill, French oak barrels by Damy. Delicious, the flavor profile of this wine is nothing short of outstanding, conjuring hints of vanilla, jasmine & sage.
When tasting so technically, be sure to spit after each sample of wine. Most gatherings of this nature provide personal spit cups so that you can avoid splashes or embarrassment as you maintain not only a heightened palate but also your sobriety.
Reds range from Red Blends, Cabernet Sauvignons, Port Wines & Pinot Noirs, all with such different characteristics, embodiednot only from their varietals, but also the barrel in which the wine was aged.
No wine tasting event is complete without food, and on this particular engagement, our host was Newberg’s renowned, Recipe, wowing attendees with roasted Duck Breast Crostini, Black Truffle Fondue puff pastries, Charcuterie plates, and Salmon Tartare topped with roe.
As you taste, be sure to take notes, highlighting your favorite combinations of these fantastic barrels.
Before leaving, refresh your palate with a small sampling of the traditional Port Wine, sweet enough to refresh your tastebuds, reinvigorating your senses.
When approached objectively, you will come away with an advanced understanding of the art behind Cooperage, as well as an appreciation of the people who make it possible.