What’s With Oak?

When someone usually asks “What’s with the Oak?” it’s typically in reference to the over-oaking of wines. I think that’s a well discussed topic, so I’m going to skip over that and go back to the basics.

To be quite honest, I’ve been a little scared to ask this question because it seemed like it must be an obvious answer that I just somehow didn’t know. It’s been on my brain for a while but I trust you guys, so I’m going to throw the question out, and hopefully it’ll get me to the right end result: learning something about winemaking!

Why are wines (and for that matter, liquors) aged in oak and not any other wood? I know that oak adds a certain flavor and is a pretty hard wood, but is that the whole reason? There’s tons of other types of trees and other woods that would probably be okay. Maybe not? I don’t really know because I’m neither a tree or winemaking expert.

Is it the same as cork usage, being that it’s tradition? There are synthetic corks and screw-tops that work just as well but cork remains a mainstay. Is oak the same? Or am I missing some really huge piece of information about why oak is special?

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