Foods 2020, 9(9), 1160
The aging of wines is a process used to preserve wine but also to enhance its properties. It is a process of great interest, mainly because of the additional properties it adds to wines and because of its economic implications. Historically, barrels have been employed for centuries for preserving and aging wine due to their resistance and relative impermeability. In general terms, the wine aging process can be divided into two phases: oxidative and reductive aging. Oxidative aging traditionally takes place in barrels while reductive phase occurs in the bottle. During both processes, oxygen plays a fundamental role as well as other factors, for instance: temperature, light, bottle position, microbial growth or storage time. Likewise, during the aging process, a series of chemical reactions take place influencing the composition and organoleptic profile of wine. At this point, oxidative aging in barrels is a fundamental step. Barrels are directly involved in the produced changes on wine’s composition due to the transference of oxygen and phenolic and aromatic compounds from wood to wine. This way, barrels act as an active vessel capable of releasing compounds that affect and improve wine’s characteristics. Regarding, the importance of barrels during aging process, some attention must be given to the species most used in cooperage. These species are conventionally oak species, either French or American. However, other non-conventional species are currently being studied as possible wood sources for the production of wines, such as chestnut robinia or other oak species. In the last decades, new approaches have been developed for barrel aging to find new alternatives more suitable, affordable and feasible to sanitize the process, such as other materials different from wood or the use of wood chips, which is regulated since 2006 by the EU. However, even though some of them have shown promising data, barrels are currently the most used technology for the oxidative stage of table wines aging.