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Barrel Variation

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.

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