Bourbon Barrel-Aging – or Not!

For some time now I have been hearing about this “trend”; reading articles and listening to industry experts. This week I finally decided to taste my very first red wine aged in a bourbon barrel; it was an Argentinian Cabernet Sauvignon. Not a spirits fan, I did not quite understand the reason for this aging process, but I decided to give it a whirl – or in my case, a swirl.

Argentinian barrel-aged Cabernet Sauvignon
Argentinian barrel-aged Cabernet Sauvignon

From what I have heard, this barrel-aging technique is not a trend at all, but has been used for centuries; just not talked about. Due to the high cost of new barrels, it can be more cost-effective for some wine producers to purchase used barrels, be it from the spirits industry or other wine makers. Producers of some big reds – Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel and blends – have used bourbon barrels to age their wines, even using them to age Chardonnay. Made of charred American oak, bourbon barrels are taller and thinner than traditional wine barrels; this supposedly allows for more richness and complexity in the wines. Likewise, spirit producers have also purchased used barrels from wine makers, but that is a whole other story.

As with all barrel-aging, the characteristics of the barrel are usually detected in whatever is aged in them; attributes vary depending on the length of the aging. So, it would make sense to some, that if you reuse a barrel, you should also pick up some notes of what was previously aged in said barrel. Right? Uh, not so much. 

The wine I tasted was a traditional full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon with blackberry and plum on the nose; no sweet spice, smoky cedar or bourbon bouquet detected by this sniffer. Nor did any essence of bourbon come through when I tasted the wine, which I am wholly grateful to report. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely enjoyed the wine and would have enjoyed it more with a big juicy steak I am sure, but was it because of the bourbon barrel-aging? I truly have my doubts.

So, whether it is a trend that will soon fade away or a marketing ploy to get spirit drinkers to drink more wine, it may be worth your while to at least try a bourbon barrel-aged wine and see what you can detect. Or not! If you do or if you have, please let us know.

Cin Cin

 

Author: wineauxliving

Kim K. spent many years in the trade show and special event industry before following her passion by taking some wine classes. She took two with the American Sommelier Association in New York City, receiving certificates of completion - one in 2010 for their Foundation Course and one in 2011 for Viticulture and Vinification. In December 2015, she left the event industry behind and completed the Certified Specialist of Wine course with The Westchester Wine School. She has been working in the wine industry since 2016. Blogging on and off since 2009 on various topics, Kim is happy to return to the blogosphere with her wine blog. She is a resident of the lower Hudson Valley in New York.

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