Ask Wine Wizard

Defining “Percent New Oak” in Wine


Richard Parry — Fox Fire Farms Winery Ignacio, Colorado asks,

Winemakers who age in barrels are always talking about the percentage of “new oak” in their barrel lineup. If I put my wine in all two-year-old barrels, (second usage) how would you translate that into a percentage of “new oak” in the wine?


Thanks for bringing up this topic. There are some parts of the answer that’ll be really obvious but like so much in winemaking, it’s often up for interpretation and the subtleties may vary from winemaker to winemaker, even in the professional world. Let’s lay a little groundwork with the “obvious”: If you put all of your wine in new barrels (first usage), that’d be considered “100% new oak.” If, in your barrel lot (a grouping of barrels that contains the same homogenous wine from the same mother source), you’ve got one un-used barrel and one neutral barrel (has seen at least four season’s use), then that’s clearly “50% new oak.” If your barrel lot consists of two barrels, which have seen at least four season’s use, then that’s “0% new oak” or “100% used oak” or “100% neutral oak.” After that, it’s a bit open to interpretation. That’s because the definition of what constitutes a “season’s use” can vary from winery to winery and from wine style to wine style. Additionally, barrels are made from natural materials and as such
Response by Alison Crowe.