Grapevine & Wine 02/11/2009

The secret of the wood for good wine. Is it better the big barrel or the barrique?

One of the main European experts, Joseph Nicastro, attended the Wine Show meeting in Turin. In the last thirty years people tried everything: first the dismantling of old barrels in favor of steel, and then back to the wood

Is it better a big or a small barrel? Which is the true effect of the wood on wine? Joseph Nicastro, one of the main European experts in this field, revealed these secrets at the Taste Laboratory “The wood secrets” at the Wine show meeting (, the new Wine fair, held in Turin from the 24th to the 26th October 2009.

Joseph Nicastro, great expert of France woods and consultant for many small France tonnelerie, introduced the audience of the meeting on Sunday 25th to this unknown world, with an exclusive degustation of the Nebbiolo da Barolo by Luciano Sandrone, refined in six tonneaux of different suppliers, designed to highlight similarities and differences of wines matured in different wines.

As for the barrels, in the last thirty years people tried everything: first the dismantling of old barrels in favor of steel, and then back to the oak wood, mainly in its France version (from Allier, Troncais, Nevers, Limousine zones) and in small barrels, the barriques. Then the trend was a return to the truncated cone tubs for wine-making and, finally, at least for some tradition wines, a return to big or average size barrels.

At the moment, the main trend, mainly in France, is the research toward new solutions and, all over the world, the pressure by wine makers on barrel makers is strong in order to obtain high quality standards, without any risk for the wine, and the meeting between the farms requests and the barrel makers offers.

For some wines, and in particular the classic Docg wines from Italian wine makers, i.e. great wines like the Nebbiolo or the Sangiovese (but also Aglianico and others), there was in last years a return to traditional techniques, such as the employ of big barrels and the so called Slavonian (not toasted) oak wood.

The most traditionalist wine makers and enologist are always convinced that, at least for red wines, oak woods from the Balkans of from the Slavonia are better than the France oak. This is one of the classic catchphrases without solution since different techniques give different results, so it is just a matter of taste.

The orders for traditional barrels are growing up in Italy and abroad, while the barriques import is falling down. In accord with the change in the demand for less “wood” in the wine, the producers began to employ second or third passage barriques, while some leave them for returning to traditional big barrels made of Slavonian oak.

Source: WS

di S. C.