Cooperage: the art of oak-aging

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Oak ageing is an art. The barrels a winemaker chooses have a marked effect on how the wine will taste, lending flavours that range from sweet to austere, says Margaret Rand.

Every wine has a back-story. We’re accustomed to tracing a wine’s history back to the unbroken grape, then shrinking and greening the grape on the vine to a hard speck, and then watching the flowering. Is it early? Late? Homogenous? It’s how we explain why wine tastes the way it does.

But from the moment we reach the barrel in which the wine is aged, there’s another back-story. It branches to the cooperage – to the fire that toasts the wood, to a cooper examining the grain, to the ageing of the staves in the rain and the wind, to an oak tree growing straight in a French forest. In the first story we ask, which vineyard? Which winemaker? When it comes to oak, we ask, which forest? Which cooper?

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About Kinnegar

Kinnegar Wines was born almost by accident and been growing organically since.

In 1998, I was in the midde of a two year diploma course with the London Wine & Spirits Trust when an opportunity came up to visit South Africa's Western Cape. Naturally, I was keen to avail of the opportunity to learn more about viticulture and winemaking in South Africa.

We had an excellent guide who brought us to a number of the Cape's leading estates including Thelema and De Trafford where we had in depth vineyard and cellars tours. At the end of the day, I wanted to take back some of the wonderful wines we had tasted for our own use. It was not possible to take two or three cases of wine with us on our flight and shipping such a small quantity was more than the cost of wines. So I had the mad idea of shipping a pallet! Clearly, I had to start selling these wines and so began Kinnegar Wines. Ashford Castle took many of the wines and continue to list them and newer arrivals ever since.

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