I have been curious for some time about the variability
of different barrels of Pinot Noir within a winery’s
cellar. It is well-known that wine produced from the
same vineyard and vinified in the exact same manner,
will vary in aromatic and flavor profile from barrel to
barrel. This is why “barrel tasting” can be misleading
to the consumer and critic, because the winemaker will
usually offer samples from the best tasting barrels.
Often the very best barrels in the winery’s cellar will be
bottled as a reserve.
Recently I posed the question to Ed Kurtzman of
Freeman Cellars and August West. He offered the first
clear explanation for me. He said that each oak barrel
was distinctive and different, even barrels made from
the same tree on the same day. Each
oak tree, as well as each part of the
tree will produce staves that have
subtle differences in flavor which are
then passed on to the wine in barrel
Ed, like most winemakers, actually
prefers this variability for it adds
interest to the finished wine.