Labor Day had a busy start with a trip to the cellar for a round of barrel tasting to help determine the future of the MTGA oak program. There were a few coopers involved in the process, all of which were French oak: Sylvain, Taransaud (including the super-dooper T5 barrel), Alain Fouquet, Darnajou and Boutes. Each were tasted in comparison with the same varietal contained in a neutral barrel from the same cooperage to understand the full effect of the brand new oak barrel.
Historically I have used once or twice used barrels for the MTGA Merlot which worked great in 2010 and 2011 because of the cooler vintages. The wine was a bit more delicate and didn’t necessarily warrant the use of a bunch of new oak, in fact it might have been too much for the wine to handle. However with the more recent 2012 and 2013 vintages that were closer to average, being warmer/more consistent growing seasons, it is time to tweak things to accommodate the vintage variation; ALL THE WHILE trying to maintain the style that I want to get out of the wines I make.
Still with me?
Long story short when wine industry folks say barrels are the winemaker’s “spice rack” they aren’t kidding. Each producer, forest, country, etc has its own characteristics and style. But here is the long story anyway…
Of the barrels that I went through the Sylvain was the most austere. Very focused on bringing out the structure. The Taransaud really brought out the mid-palate, giving the wine some broader shoulders while integrating a nice touch of brown cooking spices. The Darnajou was all about creaminess similar to the Taransaud but almost lightened the wine up (think of being on an airplane for a couple hours then getting off and taking your first breath of un-recycled air, it was kind of like that). The T5 barrel did stand out in that it highlighted the structure but still gave enough body and breadth to the wine that nothing fell short; the integration that the T5 barrel was impressive (to say the least).
With the trials now complete the real fun begins, nailing down what barrels are going to be best suited for this little production of mine.