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Chinese oak barrels, made in Spain

A Spanish cooper in Rioja is making barrels out of Chinese oak to supply winemakers in the region, including Miguel Torres, for use in trials. Other wineries in Italy, Bordeaux and the US are also experimenting.

The Rioja cooperage Tonelería Magreñán joined forces 3 years ago with a Chinese partner to import the wood which is sourced from a forest in Mongolia. They bought about 40,000 barrels worth of standing trees, cured the oak and aged it for 36 months until ready for use this year.

Miguel Torres said the wine aged with Chinese oak had a good aromatic and fruit intensity with fine toast notes, and some vanilla and coconut, similar to American oak but less complex on the palate vs French oak. The price of Chinese oak is about 5-10% lower than French.