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The Benefits of Oak Infusion Products Over Barrels

Last Updated: 2/2022

Applies to: Small to medium wineries currently using only oak barrels to impart oak impact.

For over 50 years, the wine industry has tried to mimic the flavor and aroma impact of oak barrels with other oak products to overcome some of the weaknesses of oak barrels. Oak barrels are expensive, labor-intensive, can be sources of microbial contamination, and can be hard to source.

Alternative oak formats and oak infusion products have improved significantly since their introduction and are not only viable alternatives to barrels, some producers even prefer them. Oak infusion products offer significant benefits over barrels and can reduce costs, support sustainability efforts, increase processing flexibility, and improve quality.

OAK INFUSION PRODUCTS ARE MORE AFFORDABLE AND SUSTAINABLE THAN BARRELS

Oak infusion products cost less than oak barrels.

The chart below summarizes the wood cost per gallon of treating wine with new American oak barrels (from a representative average of 2021 barrel prices) versus the cost of treating wine with the highest recommended dosage of THERMIC oak infusion products from Scott Labs. ­Treating wine with any format of THERMIC is more cost effective than using barrels, even when barrel cost is depreciated over 4 years.


Wood Cost ($/gal)

AMERICAN OAK BARRELS
THERMIC OAK INFUSION PRODUCTS
New
Depreciated Over 4 Years
Staves
Cubes
Barrel Inserts
$ 7.92
$ 1.98
$ 0.72
$ 1.60
$ 1.51


Oak infusion products are less labor-intensive than oak barrels.

Using oak infusion products requires fewer labor hours than using barrels. For example, in less than one hour, a single cellar staff member can treat 10,000 gallons of wine with oak infusion products. The same amount of wine treated in barrel (~170 barrels) will require a team of individuals to manage and requires additional labor over the life of the wine (racking, topping, etc..).

The labor savings of using oak infusion products can also be seen when receiving product. Barrels must be unloaded, unpacked, placed on racks, bar-coded or labeled, washed, and rehydrated. Receiving oak infusion products only requires unloading and storing in a cool, dry environment until use.

Oak infusion products use fewer resources than oak barrels.

Compared to barrels, oak infusion products use less water, energy, and require a smaller footprint for storage.

OAK BARRELS

THERMIC OAK INFUSION PRODUCTS

Water for cleaning and maintenance:
  • Rehydrating
  • Cleaning
  • Steaming
RequiredNot Required

Utilities for storage:

  • Energy for temperature control
  • Water for humidity control
RequiredNot Required

OAK INFUSION PRODUCTS ARE MORE FLEXIBLE THAN BARRELS

Oak infusion products allow for quicker extraction than barrels.

Oak compounds can be extracted quickly from oak infusion products. This allows wines to be bottled more quickly and allows winemakers to make last minute adjustments prior to bottling.

Oak infusion products are readily available.

Many oak infusion products do not need to be ordered months in advance. In particular, Scott Labs’ THERMIC products are produced in the U.S.A., have short lead times, and are less prone to global supply chain disruptions.

OAK INFUSION PRODUCTS CAN IMPROVE QUALITY

Oak infusion products allow for more control over oak impact.

Oak impact can be customized by combining oak infusion products of different toasts and formats. Once the desired oak impact has been achieved, oak infusion products can be easily removed from wine, preventing over extraction.

Oak infusion products can improve wine consistency.

Oak infusion products can help achieve a consistent oak profile between vintages. Barrels are inherently inconsistent in the flavor profile they produce, even between barrels of the same cooper and toast. THERMIC, in particular, is very consistent even between lots which not only allows for better vintage-to-vintage consistency but also ensures that bench trials accurately predict the oak impact in your wine at production scale.

Barrels can be a source of contamination that is hard to manage.

Barrels must be properly stored or they will harbor microorganism populations that can cause sensory flaws and stability issues. Once barrels become contaminated it can be hard to pinpoint, isolate, and control the source of contamination.

SCOTT LABS DOES OAK!

Scott Labs’ THERMIC line of oak infusion products are the most innovative available. THERMIC is produced using a proprietary thermal modification process which results in a wide spectrum of flavor profiles that are incredibly consistent. THERMIC comes in staves, cubes, and barrel inserts, each of which are available in five distinct flavor profiles.

THERMIC profiles can be used on their own or blended in tank to produce the desired oak characteristics. As mentioned, THERMIC’s consistency, even between lots, not only allows for vintage-to-vintage consistency but also ensures that bench trials accurately predict the oak impact in your wine at production scale.

Your wine matrix may change with each vintage, but THERMIC will not.

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