Oak Chips

Definition - What does Oak Chips mean?

Oak chips are used to give wines a unique flavor. Depending upon the type of oak and wine, a wide range of complexities can be added to the wine to develop its flavor and character; oak additives, like oak chips and liquid oak, are cheaper alternatives for this as opposed to using oak barrels.

Oak can add flavors ranging from vanilla and coconut to nutmeg and cinnamon. It complements the aroma and taste of wine and improves stability in the wine's clarity and color. Oak induces a low level of oxidation in the wine, which helps to soften harsh characteristics that are mostly associated with younger wines. This oxidation benefits the aging process and helps in safe storage.

WineFrog explains Oak Chips

Wines can be oaked during two instances, during fermentation or after it has been racked for bulk aging. Oak chips are used when wines have been stored for aging, and they provide the greatest variety in terms of the type and toast level of wine. French oak gives a slight vanilla flavor whereas darker toasts bring out a more earthy flavor.

The optimal proportion for adding oak chips is 3 grams per liter. But it can vary from wine to wine and from one oak variety to the other. Since you can't remove the oak but can easily add as much of it as you want, it is better to add oak in small quantities and determine which amount works out best. Winemakers often keep a logbook to track the time and amount of chips added so that they can duplicate or adjust future batches of wine. Tasting the wine can begin two to three days after adding the oak chips.

One of the drawbacks of using oak chips is that it is difficult to remove afterwards. However, some wineries have developed a cheese cloth-like method for extraction, which involves putting the chips in a porous container and suspending them in the wine, making it easier to pull out after the desired flavor is achieved.

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