Oak experiments yield mixed results

UK wine professionals were guinea pigs at a seminar yesterday as they tasted the results of Taransaud prototypes and product developments.

Taransaud's new Ovum egg-shaped wooden fermentation vessel

Among the wines shown by the barrel maker were a Sauvignon from a wooden egg-shaped fermentor and a Chardonnay aged in a barrel designed to enhance the grape’s aromas and longevity.

The event, dubbed “Oak and wine… the road to complexity”, comprised a series of presentations followed by tastings, some of which were blind, to illustrate the effects of oak shape, size and treatments on a wine’s flavour and structure.

One of these concerned the effect of both shape and volume with a blind tasting of three Sauvignon Blancs from Domaine de Chevalier fermented and aged in a range of wooden containers all made using French oak.

Among the vessels was Taransaud’s new egg-shaped 2,000 litre wooden cask called Ovum, which Domaine de Chevalier took delivery of in time for the 2011 vintage at a cost of €30,000.

When compared with wines made and aged in both 225 and 400 litre casks, the wine from the egg-shaped container did not win the support of the room, with a show of hands among the 50 plus wine professionals present at the seminar picking the wine made using a 400-litre cask.

Jean-Pierre Giraud, commercial director for Chêne & Cie, which owns Taransaud, expressed his lack of surprise at the result, and said that it supported a trend in the Loire towards the use of 400-litre oak casks for fermenting Sauvignon Blanc.

However, it was suggested by Domaine de Chevalier technical director Remi Edange, who also praised the balance of the wine made in the 400-litre oak container, that the wine made in the Ovum would be more complete when the ageing process is finished.

“The wines are only half way through their time in barrel,” he reminded those present, stressing that each of the samples had only spent six months in the different shaped containers.

However, a tasting of Chardonnay from Givry using an experimental Taransaud barrel also failed to yield clear support for the cooper’s new product, which was called PFC.

Using wines from the 2011 vintage made by Domaine Francois Lumpp, the wine from the prototype container was shown alongside an identical Chardonnay aged in a traditional 228-litre Burgundy barrel.

A show of hands after the tasting of the two Burgundies revealed almost a 50:50 split in terms of taste preference, leading one member of the panel, Stephan von Neipperg from Vignobles Comtes von Neipperg to suggest blending the two wines.

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