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Canadian Oak (July 7, 2003)

Canadian wineries may soon be turning their backs on French and American oak barriques and opting for Canadian oak barrels instead.

This September will see the first release of Ontario's 2002 vintage wines fermented and aged in barrels made from Canadian oak.

Derek Barnett, an Englishman who is the winemaker at Lailey Vineyard in Ontario's Niagara Peninsula region, has aged five wines in Canadian barrels – Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Vidal Icewine.

The white oak, Quercus alba, is a North American species that grows from southern Canada to the lower floodplain of the Mississippi River. In Canada, it is only found in the province of Ontario, growing south of a line from Toronto to Sarnia.

The wood for the barrels was grown, felled, air-dried and milled near Ancaster, Ontario, and then shipped to Missouri for coopering.

Currently, five other Ontario wineries are experimenting with Canadian barrels – Daniel Lenko, Featherstone, Malivoire, Marynissen and Thirty Bench.

Scientific testing on the Canadian oak barrels shows that they are tighter grained than American oak and develop flavours that are more akin to wines matured in French oak barrels. Barnett says the effect is somewhat like wines raised in oak from Alsace's Vosges mountains. "The wine shows a fennel and licorice root character but toasting levels will ameliorate that characteristic."

 

 

 

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