Why are there different toasting levels of oak barrels?
Oak barrels are sold at different levels of toasting so winemakers can achieve the flavors, texture and aromatics desired in the finished wine. Heavily toasted oak imparts bolder aromas like coffee and chocolate, while medium toasted barrels contribute mellower scents like allspice, dulce de leche, toasted bread and vanilla. Lightly toasted barrels can be great for white wines and Pinot Noirs, because they add oak tannin for an enriched mouthfeel without having an overwhelming oak character.
How many pounds of grapes does it take to make a barrel of wine?
As a general rule, you need 800 pounds of fresh grapes still on the stems to make a 59-gallon barrel of wine, with some wine left over for the ‘topping off’ you’ll need to do throughout the winemaking process. The final volume of wine, however, is ultimately dependent on how much juice is squeezed out of the grapes. If the pressing is more forceful, you may yield a higher amount, whereas if you use a gentler approach, the final volume will probably be less.
What is the requirement when naming a wine’s appellation on a wine label?
To name a wine’s appellation on the label, such as ‘ Napa Valley,’ or ‘Sonoma Coast,’ at least 85% of the grapes must come from the named region. For wines that incorporate multiple California regions and not one is over 85%, ‘California’ may be designated on the label as its place of origin.
Originally Published in our Gold Wine Club "Wine Press" newsletter, Rancheria Cellars edition.