Technique

Impact of Barrel Kinetics and Dynamics on Wine

Oak barrels have long been used primarily for aging red wines but also to shape the style of certain white varietals, such as Chardonnay, into fuller-bodied wines. Oak wood imparts what is generally referred to as toasted-oak aromas and flavors, but more specifically, these include a varied set of volatile compounds, from aldehydes to oak lactones, and non-volatile compounds, mostly hydrolyzable tannins such as ellagitannins. Oak barrels also allow for the graceful maturation of wine through interactions with infinitesimally small amounts of oxygen in what is called micro-oxygenation or micro-oxidation effects. These occur via various physical and chemical phenomena, or barrel dynamics, all interacting in complex fashion and which alter the interplay between wine and wood. Here, we examine barrel kinetics and dynamics and how these interactions modify organoleptic qualities of wine. In chemistry, one would refer to kinetics when describing the reaction rates or ‘pace’ at which a reaction takes place. Dynamics, on the other hand, would refer to the nature of the chemical reactions taking place (e.g. hydrolysis, oxidation, etc.). It is important to distinguish the two because