What's the scoop on Oak cubes?

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What's the scoop on Oak cubes?

Postby mark886 » Sat Feb 21, 2004 5:11 pm

I'm about to add Stavin's oak cubes to my 2003 Lodi reds (zin, merlot, and cab sauv). I've never tried high quality oak in my wines before. Given that the next crush is about 6 months from now, and I plan to bottle in August:

1. How much should I add? I'm planning on adding French medium or medium plus. I want to leave them in for the whole 6 months to get the maximum benefit, so I was thinking 1.5 oz/5gal.

2. Is it imperative that I break in the cubes first, or can I use less oak and get the same effect? I could get a white kit for breaking them in.

3. If I do break them in, would it make sense to add about 2oz/5gal instead of 1.5 oz?

4. Has anyone tried the Hungarian or American varieties? I've heard that Hungarian is like French, but more mild, and American is more pronounced than French.

5. I've never compared medium vs. medium plus. Which do you folks prefer in zins, cabs, and merlots?

Mark
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Postby Honeypale » Sat Feb 21, 2004 10:53 pm

I use 3oz per 5 gallons, but I think Shea Comfort, our resident wine expert at B3 should handle this one. :wink: I'll let him know your on here.
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Postby Comrade » Mon Feb 23, 2004 3:06 pm

I don't believe cubes, staves, sawdust, essence oil, or any other work-around is worth it.

Don't be afraid to go the extra mile and get a barrel, I promise you will not be sorry.
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How long do you leave them in?

Postby mark886 » Sun Mar 07, 2004 4:10 pm

Honeypale:
When you use 3oz per 5 gallons, how long do you leave them in?
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Postby Honeypale » Mon Mar 08, 2004 9:38 pm

Forget the barrel, too much work, cost and risk for the home winemaker, my opinion. I put the cubes in after primary and leave them in until I keg. About 9 months or so. I re-use them as I rack.
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Postby Comrade » Tue Mar 09, 2004 2:27 pm

I suspect Honeypale is trying to get me fired up.

Barrels are where it's at. They are not too much trouble, and not any more of a risk than a carboy if you pay attention to a few important, but simple items.

1) Keep it clean & sanitary. This is easy if you came from homebrewing, you already have very good habits.
2) Keep it toped up. Don't let air space develop inside the cask (unless you are making sherry with a solara system, that is...)
3) Keep it in there a long time. It doesn't take a lot of work once the wine is in the cask. Wait a year, two, three or more if the cask is a seasoned veteran.
4) Keep it full. Don't bother with the burning sulfur stick, store it dry thing. Just ferment something else to age in there. Even HoneyPale could use a cask for some mead and age it for 3-4 years...

See easy!

The cask opens up a whole new set of toys and challenges, it kicks ass!
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Postby Honeypale » Tue Mar 09, 2004 8:04 pm

I still disagree with barrels for the small scale home winemaker.

How much does a barrel cost? 2 to 3 hundred?
How many times can you use it?
How often can you send it to the cooper (cost) to be shaved and reworked?
They leak sometimes.
They can ruin your wine easier than carboys. Wood vs. Glass, do the math.
How much wine do you have to make for a barrel to be worth it? Anything less than 60 gallons is detrimental in barrels anyway.

Why go to all that trouble when you can achieve basically the same results with high quality oak cubes?
No fuss, cost or muss!

Why are several wineries using Stainless fermentors and oak cubes if they are so inferior... Answer, because they are getting great results with less effort, what a concept. KISS principle.

If you have a lot of money and time, and you are crushing tons yearly... Yes Comrade, barrels would definately be something to consider.

My 2 cents, for what it's worth.
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Oak Cubes

Postby flarue » Fri May 07, 2004 9:07 am

When moving cubes from carboy to carboy, do you just rinse them each time, rinse and sanitize each time or handle them some different way?
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Oak Cubes vs Barrel

Postby Topdog » Sun Jul 25, 2004 8:27 pm

I just joined this forum and realize that I'm real late in adding my opinion to this post but what the hey.

I've done both Stavin cubes(Hungarian, French, American all in both the Regular and the Plus. I've also used French as well as Hungarian barrels.

Here's my opinion.

Hungarian whether Stavin or Cubes give a sweeter more smokey flavor. It's by far my favorite but I like smokey flavors. The french as well as the american(barrels and cubes) give more of a smoke wood flavor(more tannins from the oak). Therefore, if you like smokey flavors then I'd suggest the Plus toasts.

The Cubes are easier to use but the end results just don't compare to a barrel. According to Stavin, the cubes should be replaced every 3-months and to get full results of a barrel the cubes should be replaced 3-times. This adds up to 9-months. However,you will be more satisfied with 9-months in a barrel. While ageing in a barrel, evaporation takes place which must be topped off from time to time but what this evaporation process does is reduce the liquid which in turn gives the wine more body. Cubes in glass can't do this for obvious reasons.

Unused barrels are a pain to store but if you plan your rackings carefully, no barrel should never not be in use. Try a small barrel(15-gal. don't go for the smaller 5-gal. It will give you too much oak and way too fast.). Also try the Stavin cubes changing them every 3-months for 3-times. Then you compare the two, you will see what I mean. Just one note, a new 15-gal barrel will need to be bottled or racked to carboys somewhere around 6-months. So, you will need to do taste tests every three to four weeks.

I'll run primary fermentation with the cubes. I won't replace the original cubes until after 3-months or until barrel becomes available.

The flavors of a barrel will only last 3-4 years. However, you still want to benefit from the evaporation process and to get the flavors of a new barrel just use the Stavin cubes as you would in a glass carboy.

Hope this helps, it wasn;t long a go that I was asking the same questions.
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I use both

Postby Oskaar » Fri Aug 12, 2005 2:14 am

Oak barrels and oak cubes, staves, dominos, etc.

Once you get used to the process of keeping your barrels well maintained it is fairly simple to keep them conditioned and well cared for. I've found that after four to five years the barrels stop infusing any character, and are good for neutral storage. This is when I add barrel alternatives like staves and such.

I love oak cubes as well. The cubes are convinient, inexpensive and easy to deal with. The biggest factor is space saving vs barrels.

Anyway, back to cubes. I sink my cubes in the primary and weight them to keep them under the cap in a fine mesh sack with some sterilized marbles. When I rack, I go ahead and give them some fresh cubes, but I go ahead and let these guys float free. I also mix the oak cubes by toast and type. That is I'll mix two ounces of med toast plus American Oak with two ounces of Heavy toast French oak and I like the results I get.

Here's a link to an article in Wine Business Monthly that discusses the space issue and the large reduction forecast in oak barrel storage for some major wineries.

http://www.winebusiness.com/html/Monthl ... taId=38023

Cheers,

Oskaar
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