Wine Enthusiast‘s Roger Morris revisits the long-standing debate over French vs American Oak in his recent article, Are There Benefits to American Oak Over French? and discusses why a handful of prominent domestic producers believe that American oak is the best complement for their wines.
When the legendary Paul Draper took over winemaking at Ridge Vineyards in 1969, he tested French oak barrels and others produced from trees grown in Missouri’s Ozark Mountains. He decided on the latter, says Eric Baugher, who took over the reins from Draper in 2016.
“Paul and the Ridge founders did not want to make an imitation Bordeaux,” says Baugher. “American oak is twice as dense as French, carrying greater spice and wood sugar compounds that slowly extract and fill out a wine’s body. In the case of Monte Bello [vineyard grapes], with high tannin contents, the American oak’s sweetness coats the tannins and helps make the wine more sensuous and exotic.”