Archive for September, 2014

This won’t hurt a bit

Extracting oak chips from a barrel of cabernet sauvignon

Scalpel! Sutures! Drinking straw! The sweet tedium of performing an oak-ecomy on a barrel of Cabernet Sauvignon.

About a week ago, I felt like the Cab could use just a bit more depth, and for this varietal at least, what oak can bring out in its fragrance. So I wrapped a few ounces of French oak chips in a cotton mesh bag and suspended it in the barrel. A little oak goes a long way — and I want this Cab to taste like Cab, not oak — so I checked it every other day until the balance I wanted to achieve seemed to have come to pass.

Then the trick is to get it out, the oak chips now expanded to wider than the barrel opening. I’m sure there’s a smarter way, but this is how I do it: pull out as much of the bag as possible, snip the end off and splay it around the hole. Then grab bits at a time, continuing to pull the bag further out.

Interesting for about 4 minutes, then damn tedious. At least you’re surrounded by the fragrance of toasted oak when you do it.

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