When to Use Oak Chips in Wine Making

Written by elizabeth mcnelis
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When to Use Oak Chips in Wine Making
Oak chips add that aged-in-oak flavour to homemade wines. (Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images)

Home wine making can yield some surprisingly full-bodied wines. However, most homemade wine is aged in glass carboys or glass bottles. The final product lacks the complexity of an aged-in-oak vintage wine. To combat this problem, the home vintner can add clean white oak chips to any recipe.

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Identification

Oak chips are small pieces of clean white oak wood that are readily available through home winemaking supply houses in a variety of types and toasts including lightly toasted American or French oaks.

Lumber Yard Oak

Oak used in furniture making and oak used in wine making may come from the same tree but are treated differently between the tree and the store. Oak that is used for wine barrels or chips has been subjected to a sequence of steaming, ageing and toasting. Building lumber may also have wood preservatives sprayed onto the cut lumber that could ruin your wine instead of improve it.

Adding the Chips

Oak chips are best added after fermentation when the wine is racked into the secondary carboy. Start with about 1/4 cup of chips per 5 gallons of wine. You can always add more. Sterilise the oak chips by dissolving one crushed Campden tablet in 1 gallon of water and soaking the chips for at least 20 minutes before adding to the wine.

Taste Test

Oak chips release the biggest amount of flavour during the first week. Check the wine for aroma and taste every day that first week until the desired flavour and aroma is reached. Rack the wine off the chips and continue ageing as usual.

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