The Bacchus Report: The barrique rage
Written by: Libor Ševčík
Since the last quarter of the 20th
century the world of wine has been dominated by a fashion craze
for barrique wines. As is the case with fashion trends in general,
this craze is both used and abused.
foto: věroslav sixt
Wine has been aged in wooden casks since the days when wine producers
realized that casks are more practical containers than ancient
clay amphoras. Additionally, thanks to its contact with wood the
wine takes on new, interesting flavor and aroma characteristics.
While long ago new casks were treated with wine to prevent the
penetration of too many aggressive woody admixtures into high-quality
wines, today new casks are treasured. The wine-making world is
now ruled by 225-liter oak casks called barriques, in which wines
are aged for certain periods of time. The wine takes on more sweet
tannins, as well as the typical flavor and aroma vanilla. When
new casks are used properly, white wines are smoother and more
interestingly flavored in as little as three months, while reds
are aged in oak longer, generally eighteen months or more. Thanks
to their contact with the wood, the wines become more complete
and flavorful, with light smoky overtones.
The highest quality and most expensive barrique casks come from
France, primarily from the Limousine and Troncais regions. Unlike
much-used, less expensive casks made from American oak, these casks
are less porous, and wine that is aged in them is of higher quality.
Less expensive casks made of oak from Eastern Croatia, Slovenia,
and Hungary are currently appearing on the market. Even though
they are less expensive, they still represent a sizable investment
for winemakers, which is reflected in the final prices of the wines.
But cheating occurs in this area, as in everything else. Instead
of using expensive, new casks, oak shavings or chips are introduced
into the wine, which thus takes on certain aromas and flavors.
But it often turns out that winemakers taking this route produce
decent wine vinegar instead of good wine.
Barrique wines have become extremely popular especially in California,
but for some purists these whites are nearly undrinkable, as the
natural varietal character has been lost.
The author is the editor of Hospodářské
noviny's IN magazine.
Removing the protective foil from the neck of your wine bottle
can be more difficult than removing the cork. A simple cutter
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Brněnské výstavy a veletrhy, Výstaviště 405, Brno
After a two-year break wine lovers will again have an opportunity
to taste the finest domestic wines as well as interesting imports
at Vinex 2004, the largest wine exposition in this country, which
will be held at the Brno Fairgrounds from 2 to 5 March. This
exposition is held only every other year. For more information,
go to www.bvv.cz. Tel.: 541 151 111
For this issue we selected four wine samples that were aged in
barrique oak casks for a certain period of time. For comparison
purposes it's also good to taste wines of the same varietals and
years that haven't been aged in oak, which is why we chose this
month's wines from among domestic products.
Passio Christi Zweigeltrebe
klaret 2002, Vinselekt Michlovský, Rakvice
Němčičky, Kolberk vineyard, Velké Pavlovice region
A well-made rosé that, thanks to its contact with oak casks,
has taken on tones of an underlying, subtle almondy, spicy
aroma and the flavor typical of this blue varietal. When
it is properly cooled to about 12° C, it is good for spring
get-togethers on terraces. Thanks to its slightly spiciness
and fresh acidity, it goes well with pastas and grilled
Price: 97,60 Kč
||Selection barrique 1998,
Bohemia sekt Starý Plzenec
A very interestingly priced sample of barrique wine that is
suitable for one's first experience with this type of wine.
It is made from the Svatovavřinecká varietal, which is nothing
exceptional in its flavor in off years.
Price: 130 Kč
Harmony, Modrý Portugal 2002, cuvée clasique,
Vinselekt Michlovský, Rakvice
Hovorany, Díly za vinohrady vineyard, Mutěnice region
This is a good example of how an interesting wine can be
produced from the hitherto under-rated Modrý Portugal varietal.
Aging in oak casks intensifies its floral aroma in which
we can recognize violets. Its flavor includes tones of
ripe sour cherries slipping into chocolate notes. Great
with fattier patés and white mold-coated cheeses.
Price: 152,50 Kč
||Chateau Dowina, Cabernet
Sauvignon 2000, pozdní sběr, Vinselekt Michlovský, Rakvice
Mikulov, Pod Svatým kopečkem vineyard, Mikulov region
Proof that even this part of the world can produce high-quality
red wine from the Cabernet Sauvignon varietal. Thanks to its
aging in oak this wine is as smooth as velvet and complex in
its aroma and flavor. It carries characteristic black currant
and ripe wild fruit tones. Great with spicy pork or beef steaks.
Price: 303,80 Kč