Technique

Oak Alternatives: Tips from the Pros

A lot of home winemakers make small batches of wine that aren’t enough for a whole barrel. Thankfully there are lots of options for those of us making only a few gallons (or liters) at a time. In this article, two experts discuss their oak alternative choices. Tristan Johnson, Brand Manager at MoreWine! & MoreWine! Pro in Concord, California. Tristan develops MoreWine! content, provides customer service for all wine customers and is an avid home beer, wine and meadmaker. He writes technical manuals and instructions for many MoreWine! products and also serves on WineMaker magazine’s technical review board. I’ve used pretty much everything available on the market for oak alternatives in my winemaking except for barrel replicas. I tend to prefer cubes or stave segments — staves for larger volumes and cubes for smaller volumes. The cubes take longer to fully extract so there is less of a chance of overoaking, which can sometimes happen with oak powders and chips as they extract so quickly into the wine. Powders and chips have a lot of surface area that causes them