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Wood-chips

In the New World, it became common practice as early as the 1980s to replace the taste components of oak wood produced during barrique ageing with a cheaper and less complex method. In this process, oak wood fragments of various sizes are placed in or added to the steel tanks. These can be boards, staves (inner staves), cubes, chips, oak chips or shavings which, like the barrique barrels, have been subjected to toasting (roasting). Smaller fragments are packed in perforated bags or wire cages which are hung in steel tanks for ageing.

In some cases, the use is already carried out during the mash fermentation, whereby a correspondingly higher extraction of the oak wood substances is achieved. In addition, there are also extracts obtained from oak wood in the form of powders, tablets or essences. However, this already marks the boundary between aromatisation and wine adulteration and is only partially permitted, at least within the EU. All these oak wood fragments can, however, when aged in tanks, only imitate the quality of a genuine barrique aged in oak barrels, but in no way replace it, as the absorption of small amounts of oxygen through the wood pores is eliminated.

Wood-chips in verschiedener Form und Größe
Picture right: From Agne27 from the engl. Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

These new methods are being used on a larger scale, especially overseas. But here too, the top qualities are still aged in barrique barrels. The label partly indicates the shape. Only "barrel fermented" undoubtedly means "real barrel finishing", whereas "oaked" or "wood matured" means that this was probably done in the form of chips. The use of pieces of oak wood was prohibited within the EU, regardless of shape and size. There was, however, an exemption granted for "large-scale experimental purposes". However, as there were no bans in many non-EU countries, there was a distortion of competition. This is because compared to barrique barrels the costs are only one tenth. The problem was exacerbated by the trade agreement between the EU and the USA, which came into force in 2005 (see under Wine Law).

From 2006 onwards, pieces of oak wood were permitted. Initially this applied only to young wine, but was extended by the EU wine market regulation from 2009 to include grapes (mash), grape must and wine for all quality levels. When using wood chips, however, texts referring to barrique maturation such as "matured (fermented) in oak wood/barrique" or similar may not be used. Even for wines that have been treated with pieces of oak wood and then stored in barrique barrels, this is expressly prohibited. A declaration of the use of pieces of oak wood on the label is not mandatory, however (but it is required in the accompanying documents of a shipment). The pieces of oak wood must come exclusively from Quercus species. They must be large enough to retain at least 95% of the mass in a 2mm sieve

The pieces of oak wood are either used unaltered, i.e. in their natural state, or they are heated slightly, moderately or strongly, but must not show any combustion (even superficial) and must not be charred or brittle. They may not undergo any chemical, enzymatic or physical treatment other than heating and may not be mixed with substances which increase the natural aroma or extractable phenolic components. The use of oenological tannins is also permitted.

See also a complete list of relevant terms on the subject under the keywords barrel and barrel. Complete lists of the numerous vinification measures and cellar techniques, as well as the types of wine, sparkling wine and distillate regulated by wine law are included under the keywords vinification. Comprehensive information on wine law can be found under the keyword wine law.

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