What are the key differences between BarriQ “barrel oak” and oak “alternates”?Pierre-Benn de VilliersBarriQ barrel oak is not an "alternate".
1- Quality of wood
: BarriQ barrel oak is exclusively sourced from slow growth Haute Futaie state forests in France, harvested at 100-200 years old; the finest medium elevation forests in the Caucasus Mountains in Russia; and the most prized Appalachian and Midwestern white oak forests in North America. BarriQ oak comes from exactly the same trees, and exactly the same part of those trees, that are used to make our traditional barrels.
2 - Hand split, not sawn
: BarriQ is 100% hand split. This is important to preserve the full length of the 'tubes' within the piece of wood, allowing the retention and slow release of oxygen. Slow-release slows the reaction kinetics, creating a higher quality result.
3 -Thickness of stave
: BarriQ is 23mm thick, compared to 7mm of typical alternates. Greater thickness is important to slow release and integration of oak tannin/flavours and to provide greater toasting complexity.
: Oak alternatives are generally not air seasoned fully or long enough, thus they retain hard, green tannins. This is the reason winemakers generally have to take alternates out of the wine after they have been in wine contact for 6-8 months, otherwise these tannins start to be extracted.
BarriQ barrel oak, on the other hand, is naturally season for 24 months. This is to allow three main oenological processes to take place: phenolic extraction/leaching (reduce tannin), oxidation of ellagic tannins (reduce and transform tannin) and encourage growth of micro-flora (increase of aromatic and flavour complexity).
5 - Complexity from blend of toast levels
: BarriQ is available in seven exclusive barrel profiles. Each barrel profile offers a unique combination of different toast levels formulated to match the oenological properties and complexity of the best fire toasted traditional barrels.