Tour Locations | Cellar Audio Guide: From Berry to Barrel to Bottle
LOCATION 3 | Cellar Audio Guide: From Berry to Barrel to Bottle
3. Touch: Toasted Oak
NARRATOR: We’re going to make our way up into the busiest part of the cellar in a moment, where we’ll follow the winemaking process from harvest through fermentation all the way to the moment at which bottles are sealed up with a cork. But while we’re here, with barrels all around us, let’s jump ahead to the part where all of the reds and some of the whites are put in barrels and left to mature.
On the signboard in front of you, you’ll see samples of what barrels look like on the inside. Let’s start at the top, with the oak’s different grains. Run your hands across them. Can you feel that the sample on the left is smoother than the one on the right, which has a coarse, wide grain?
Groot Constantia only uses tight and medium grain oak barrels, because they lend a more refined quality to its wines. The tight grain is used for the white wines, which should have lighter, more subtle flavours. Reds are matured in medium grain oak to impart a more robust character.
If you look at the other samples, further down, you’ll see what the inside of a toasted oak barrel looks like. The toasting is done with a blowtorch, or sometimes by placing the wood over a fire. This releases aromas in the wood, which are in turn released into the wine as it ages. Groot Constantia uses light or medium toasts, which add a subtle hint of oak without masking the flavours of the grapes.
Oak barrels are only used three times. They impart more oak the first time than they do the second or third time, and a single vintage is normally split between all three types of barrels before being blended when maturation is complete. Winemakers decide on this split based on the amount of oak flavour they want to give to the wine.
Okay fellow wine-lover, it’s time to make our way into the busiest part of the cellar. Climb all the way up the stairs to your left. You’ll see the location four at the top. Select it from the list in the app when you get there.