“A barrel is like a tea bag”……

…..“The first time used it is very powerful and each year the flavor decreases”.

Bird on barrel head

You know of Vincent as Quinta do Tedo’s owner, but let us say that his “daytime job” is 31 years of international wine industry consultation re: crafting world-class wines with wood aging in barrels, casks and tanks.  Who else to turn to but my husband when I write about our philosophy of wood aging for our ports and wines!

Barrels, pipas, casks and tanks, used for centuries as storage and shipping containers, have evolved into an integral component today for aging different wines and ports, playing a vital role in: 1) wood flavor extraction 2) micro-oxidation (breathing) through the wood and 3) aromatic concentration.

Barrels for our wine

For our table wines we use 225/228/300L barrels, mainly French oak but also a smattering of European (Tokaj) and American oak, for their different wood flavors, as well as for the breathing and the concentration. This is why we age the Douro DOC red wine in 25% new barrels, 25% barrels from 2 years, 25% barrels from 3 years and 25% neutral barrels.  The Reserva is aged in close to 100% new oak and the Grande Reserva in 100% new oak.  The time of aging is about 2 years, when the wine is ready for bottling.  The barrels are used as a vehicle to age the wine, not to mask the wine with oak flavors, but to heighten the wine’s elegance, structure and complexity.

Tanks for Ruby and Vintage

Our philosophy for port is not to use wood for aroma and flavor (the wooden containers are neutral in flavor) but as a vehicle to help port breathe and concentrate during the aging in wood, depending on the type of port.  The Ruby and Vintage are aged in large wooden tanks (from 5000 to 7000L), to help the port breathe but primarily to “capture” and retain the port’s fruit.  Our Ruby is aged for 2 years, the Finest Reserve Ruby for 3 years and the Vintage for 2 years before bottling.

For the Tawny and LBV the opposite is intended; to use smaller barrels, casks and pipas (from 225L to 550L) for a longer period of time, thats help the port slowly breathe through the porous wood, that in turn concentrates the port through water molecule evaporation, that then leads to “topping off” (adding more port to the barrel) that concentrates the port.  That is why a Tawny is always sweeter than a Ruby and a LBV is always sweeter than a Vintage.

That tea bag does work wonders, and our wine and port speak for themselves!

Vincent and harvest prep

Visitors have asked us the traditional Portuguese barrel, the pipa, is 550 liters, and has such an unusual shape?  I will talk about that in my next blog at the end of June.

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