Smell the Difference in Wine Aged in Cognac Barrels

The nose has it!


Not that wine aged in cognac barrels doesn’t taste wonderful, but the aromatics are what truly distinguishes this method.


While aging wine in cognac barrels isn’t a new trend, it’s not something Williamsburg Winery winemaker Matthew Meyer had done at his time at Wessex Hundred until recently. Smell the difference in the 2019 Petite Fleur, initially a limited release, aged for 14 months in used cognac barrels.


But don’t expect to be overwhelmed.


In fact, the difference is largely in the aromatics produced by aging the wine in 300-liter barrels, 75 liters larger than the typical oak barrel the winery uses.


“I think it’s just stunning,” Meyer says, and he’s not alone in his assessment.


Here’s a peek at his tasting notes on the 2019 Petite Fleur, winner of a Gold Medal (90 points) at the Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition April 10-11, 2021.


A truly warm and inviting wine offering a beautiful array of orange, tangerine, apricot, and nectarine. Beside these fruits is an intensely aromatic perfumed element with wildflowers, roses, and honeysuckle. Additionally, there is a bit of honey and honeydew melon to round it all out. The wine is beautifully balanced between the fruit, alcohol, and residual sugar and offers a long, lingering finish that has a touch of bright lemon. All of this is then enveloped with the gentle presence of the cognac barrel.


“We’re not getting any of that hard alcohol flavor,” Meyer says. “We’re trying to attract these beautiful fruits and vanillas and creamy characters from the wood. What these barrels do is really accentuate those characters even more.”


Meyer plans to continue aging the Petite Fleur in the cognac barrels and will experiment with additional reds, the first being the 2020 Cognac Barrel Aged Wessex Hundred Petit Verdot, anticipated to be released in 2022.


“We want to research what does best,” he says. “The sweetness of dessert wines balances those flavors out. If we do it, it’s always going to be a limited production. There are interesting projects for us to do.”


As Patrick Duffeler, Williamsburg Winery Founder says, “for any organization, experimentation is essential.”


In the life of the winemaking business, Duffeler says, experimentation means making wine with new varietals, learning more about clones, balancing the microbiology of soils, investing in and improving equipment, and having adequate inventory to face a potential less than ideal harvest.


The reward, aside from the experience of enjoying life over a nice bottle of wine?


“Complimentary comments such as those received at the Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition,” Duffeler says. “It encourages us to continue to look at new ideas.”


Cheers!

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