There are a lot of ways to add flavor to your wine other than the traditional oak barreling process, and there are a lot of flavors to explore other than oak. But, if you’re stuck on oak and don’t have a barrel at your disposal (and who does these days!), you’re in luck. Oak alternatives have been on the scene for quite some time and among the most popular oak alternatives are staves.
Staves are fundamental to the structure and quality of every oak barrel, but even as a barrel is used over and over and seemingly depleted it’s oaking use, the staves can give it a second life. You see, when staves are bound and cooped together as a barrel, only one side of the stave is exposed to the barrel’s contents. That means only one side of the stave is imparting it’s delicious oaky flavor onto the barrel’s contents. That means that once that barrel is considered done and oakless, the other 3 surfaces of the staves still have so much oak flavor to give!
Many winemakers now recycle their barrels by reusing the staves.
To oak your wine with chips or staves, simply place your oak into fabric sacks and submerge them in your aging wine. In the past, wine in stainless steel barrels was said to not age as well as wines painstakingly matured in barrels. However, improvements in micro-oxygenation combined with oak alternatives such as staves and chips have allowed winemakers to better mimic the gentle aeration and aging of wine in oak barrels, and at an accelerated pace.
Oaking your wine with staves or oak chips actually allows you to age your batches more quickly all while adding the desired woody aroma and flavors you desire. With staves and chips, you can achieve an intense oak flavor in a matter of weeks versus the year+ needed with a traditional oak barrel. And by fermenting and oaking your wine in a stainless steel wine barrel, you have complete control of what flavors do and do not enter your wine.