Barrel Fever

A quick glance at where your wine barrels are born.

French oak has dominated wine for centuries. But as wine production rises, the demand for French oak is spiking, depleting supplies and driving up prices, forcing wine makers and cooperages alike (French outfits included) to set their sites beyond France. As the oak-source landscape shifts, here’s a quick glance at where your wine barrels are born.

65% | France

French barrels are made from two different oak species, Cornish Oak and standard French Oak. Both are typically tannic and well-suited for adding structure to the wine.

30% | America & Canada

North American oak can leave behind heavy vanilla and coconut notes—good for Bourbon, bad for wine. But coopers are learning to tame these flavors, and wineries in Rioja, Australia, and the U.S. (like Ridge) are proving our oak needn’t play second fiddle to France.

4% | Hungary

Before Communism, Hungary was a main barrel supplier to Bordeaux. Now, finally, its oak barrel cred is climbing back. That’s because it has the French oak species, but cooler temps that tighten the grain, keeping tannin levels low.

1% | Poland, Russia & the Carpathian Basin

Like Hungary, French oak species are plentiful in this region, which was a big supplier to Bordeaux pre-Iron Curtain.

How we did it:

Barrel production numbers are elusive; cooperages can be secretive, and while governments regulate timber, they often don’t track how wood is used. These numbers are educated estimates from the industry’s leading experts, including: Jason Stout, sales director at Cooperages 1912; Mel Knox, a barrel broker in California; and András Kalydy, managing director of the Kadar cooperage in Hungary.

Published on July 1, 2013
Topics: Wine BarrelsWine Trends