The journey of our wine barrels is quite fascinating. Far away in the thick forests of France, the journey to become LDV Winery wine barrels begins. Our new French Oak barrels that age some of our Grenache and Viognier wines start in one of the five primary forests in France – Allier, Limousin, Nevers, Trancais, or Vosges. These forests date back to the days of Napoleon and were used for shipbuilding. In contrast, LDV’s Petite Sirah wines are aged in new American Oak barrels from forests in Missouri, Minnesota, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. Some wine aficionados say they can decipher the nuances between the forests.
Our French Oak barrels, actually French Oak barrel staves, are shipped to our cooper in Missouri where the wine barrel is constructed. It is cheaper to ship a deconstructed barrel than a completed barrel. Using traditional French barrel-making techniques the barrels are created. The partially assembled barrel undergoes a process called “toasting.” During this step, the barrel’s insides are charred to the winemaker’s specification – light toast, medium toast, or heavy toast. Think about your breakfast toast and how the adjustments you make to your toaster change the taste of the toast. The toasting has a major impact on the wine’s taste and aroma.
Our American oak barrels also have a very interesting journey. We so respect a winery in Australia called Penfolds and their signature red wine Grange. Year in and year out, we feel this is one of the finest wines in the world. While a lofty expectation, we hope to make wines of this quality and character as our vineyard matures. Therefore, we use the same coopers, AP John. So, our American oak is shipped to Australia, the barrels are constructed, and finished barrels shipped back to the USA.
Once the barrel construction is completed, they are wrapped and trucked to our winery in Pearce, Arizona. Our oak barrels have travelled many thousands of miles before settling at LDV Winery.
Besides the obvious geographic and cost differences, choosing the right barrel is an important winemaker decision. At LDV Winery, it is all about creating the desired flavor profile and the decision of how much and type of oak to influence the wines from a given vintage. Oak characteristics of the barrel can impart a vanilla, spice, and dozens of other flavor and sensory components in the finished wine.
Wine barrels are such an important part of the winemaking process. Not only are they vessels to hold our precious juice as they magically mature into great wine, but they impart just the right amount of flavor to complement the fruit.