We’re going to wrap up this month of barrel talk with a little bit about these compounds and what contributions a barrel can give to a red wine.
First of all…what is a phenolic compound? A phenolic compound by definition is an aromatic organic compound that has a phenol ring in its structure. There are many different phenols in red wine. We’ll get more scientific about them in February!
An oak barrel really doesn’t add too many phenolic compounds to a wine, as most phenols and polyphenols come from the grape pulp, seeds and skin. However oak barrels will contribute phenolic compounds such as vanillin (vanilla) and hydrolyzable tannins which increase ageability and convey astringency. Toast levels of the oak wood greatly affect the type and concentration of phenols and polyphenols as well. We also give consideration to the ambient storage temperature and type of closure on the barrel! These will affect the rate of polymerization and evolution of the wine in the barrels. There are so many variables that it can sometimes seem overwhelming. Better to just sit back and contemplate polyphenols and the other flavor compounds by sipping and enjoying them in a glass of wine! We’ll leave the science for another day.