Skip to content Skip to footer

A Beginner’s Guide to Oak Aging of Wine


Experts know that oak can influence the wine’s flavor and price. Here are five tips about oak given by Mariana Onofri, a sommelier at The Vines of Mendoza in Argentina.

Oak can determine the cost of wine

The oak barrels utilized for aging wine come from the United States or France. The cost of one barrel may range between $600 and $1, 500 and can be used up to four times.

Higher-end wines may only use the barrels once. The cost of the barrel can account for up to fifty percent of the overall production cost, which results in a higher-priced wine for the consumer.

Wines aged in oak are usually over $30, and wines under $10 were most likely not aged in oak.

Don’t be fooled by fast food wine scientists.

You may have heard about scientists participation in making fast food taste and smell better by utilizing an endless amount of additives and preservatives. We were surprised to hear that this also happens with wine!

Some wineries will use oak flavoring powder or a piece of oak (oak stave) in a steel barrel to make the wine taste like it was aged in an oak barrel. This limits the wine’s taste and aging potential. Like comparing a late-night drive through with a backyard grill!

It’s important to point out that oak doesn’t only affect flavor. A good use of oak can help a wine’s structure, aging process, aromas, flavors and overall quality.

Oak is not for every wine.

Quality grapes and structure are a requirement in wines aged in oak barrels. There are people who believe that oak can destroy the flavor of wine, however, that is only the case when the grapes or structure are weak or a winemaker uses the wrong type of oak. A perfect usage of oak doesn’t overpower the grape’s character. It should provide balance.

Drink white wines not aged in oak rapidly.

With the exception of Chardonnay, oak is hardly ever used when making white wines. Therefore, most white wines ought to be drunk while they are still young– within one or 2 years– since a majority aren’t aged in oak.

Keep an eye on aging potential.

By checking the label you may know if the wine was aged in oak barrels. Most wineries will indicate oak aging on the bottle. If a red wine was in a barrel for approximately 12 to 18 months, then it will have a better aging potential.

Be careful if a red wine is about 7 years old and was not aged in oak. You may want to avoid the sale price, as it is likely that the wine has oxidized and past its prime time for drinking.