Aside from the grape vine, the Oak Tree is the most important plant associated with winemaking. Not only is oak wood used in barrel making for wine storage, bur cork trees are also a species of oak. Though many different types of wood have been used to make wine barrels, it is widely accepted that oak offers the most appropriate wood for aging wine. However, wine was originally stored and transported in wood, not bottle, simply because this was the most efficient and least risky method. Over time, it was discovered that aging the wine in oak was more than just a practical option. Oak has many substances and chemical compounds that are extracted by the wine during the aging process and impart interesting flavors and added complexity to it. Oak barrels provide the minimal exchange of oxygen necessary for the wine’s evolution, yet the wood’s own tannins actually protect the wine from over-oxidation. Oak trees used for wine barrels are cultivated mainly in France and the U.S. Though other countries in Europe have oak forests, either they have not been well protected, maintained and forested by the government or the quality of the oak is perceived to be inferior to that found in France and the U.S.
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