A Barrel of Fun

The choice of oak barrel in which a wine will be matured has a profound effect on the bouquet, flavor, and color of the final uncorked product. Toasting the oak staves prior to making a barrel will in turn influence the qualities of the barrel. However, there is a small risk of polyaromatic hydrocarbons and dioxins being formed during toasting that might ultimately leach into the wine. Now, Pascal Chatonnet and Julien Escobessa from Laboratoires Excell have demonstrated how oak staves used to make barrels might be analyzed at various stages of processing. The team found that provided oak toasting takes place at the traditional 200 Celsius, PAHs and dioxins are not formed at hazardous levels, leaving wine as safe a beverage as ever it was.