Why whisky bar­rels are the lat­est tool for wine­mak­ers

The Daily Press (Timmins) - - LIFE - Chris Wa­ters

There was a time the only con­nec­tion be­tween Barossa Shi­raz and Scotch whisky was that both were tra­di­tion­ally aged in oak bar­rels. But then wine­mak­ers at Jacob’s Creek won­dered what would hap­pen if they put some ro­bust red wine into old whisky bar­rels.

The re­sult was a red wine with richer flavour and smoother tex­ture, which in­spired the cre­ation of the Jacob’s Creek Dou­ble Bar­rel Shi­raz in 2012. The process sees red wines pro­duced con­ven­tion­ally with ag­ing in tra­di­tional oak wine bar­rels be­fore be­ing trans­ferred to casks once used to age whisky for fin­ish­ing.

Since then Jacob’s Creek has added a Caber­net Sauvi­gnon fin­ished in Ir­ish whisky bar­rels to its port­fo­lio and other in­ter­na­tional pro­duc­ers have adopted the tech­nique.

It’s com­mon for whisky pro­duc­ers to age their spir­its in bar­rels that have held Port, Sherry or other al­co­holic bev­er­ages. Wine­mak­ers se­lect new bar­rels or ones that have pre­vi­ously con­tained wine. Wines aged in whisky bar­rels are still un­com­mon, but large pro­duc­ers, in­clud­ing Fet­zer and Robert Mon­davi, are cham­pi­oning the prac­tice.

The spirit bar­rels don’t im­part the taste of whisky per se, but be­cause they are more heav­ily toasted than con­ven­tional wine bar­rels, they do add more vanilla, mocha and smoke notes into the wine.

Con­nois­seurs might wince at the overt ma­nip­u­la­tion of their beloved wine, but these new ex­per­i­men­tal brands aren’t re­ally tar­geted at peo­ple who al­ready know their Bordeaux from their Bur­gundy. They’re gate­way wines to help usher more peo­ple into the world of fer­mented grape juice. A style of wine with a dif­fer­ent story to tell that might cap­ture the at­ten­tion of cu­ri­ous con­sumers.

chris.wa­ters@sun­media.ca

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