I have a Cab that has been aging in the carboy for a month. I want to add some oak to it. I have never done this before. Should I put the oak chips in a bag and suspend it in the wine? Or should I just dump the chips in the carboy? I plan on tasting the wine every couple of days to check oak flavoring. Would this be often enough? What char value of oak should I use? And how much? I like my wine some what oakey but not over powering.
Had you added any chips originally with primary fermentation? The normal way of doing things for carboy aging would be to add oak cubes to avoid problems with the chips at this stage. Even so, all oak will eventually fall to the bottom, so racking one extra time should remove anything you put in there. I’d at least go with French oak chips and avoid anything in powder (sawdust) form.
As far as checking it, I would not worry about how often. This process will take much longer than if done at fermentation. Maybe you check it month to month, if you even check at all. The changes will be slow and subtle.
Question - why avoid the saw dust? I bought a kit and that’s what what came in the box. It’s too late to save me this batch, but for future reference, what problems does the saw dust cause? Why toss the saw dust that comes in the box and buy chips? This is only the 2nd batch of wine I’ve managed in oh, about 15 yrs, so I’m not experienced or well read.
I was only implying you should avoid the saw dust type oak when adding it at such a late stage. If you are adding it right from the beginning it will all fall out over time and there really is no problem. The primary reason cubes would be used for finishing would be that they are very easy to seperate from the wine.
I do find however that oak cubes add a lot more to the flavor profile other than simply oakiness (such as vanilla etc) than any of the other forms. Not sure why this would be, unless they are designed to do this. I personally prefer loading a ton of french oak chips with some amount of the plain American dust right at fermentation and leaving the wine in the fermenter with skins and oak a little longer (sometimes up to 2 weeks) I avoid a lot of the cube additions at the end. This however is my personal preference to avoid any hint of Vanilla and might not be the prefered way for everyone.
I’ve never used saw dust or oak flavor concentrate, but I’ve used most other types of oak: chips, cubes, spirals, staves. I’ve also experimented with American, French and Hungarian with various levels of toasting. Based on the OP’s discription, I’d recommend medium toast French cubes. It gives a pleasant suble oak charactor, and is very hard to over extract from the cubes. Chips and spirals can put out a massive flavor contribution in just a few days, I assume due to the rough and therefor massive surface area exposed. The American oak can impart a harsher profile than the French, while the Hungarian is between the two (but more towards the French).
If it’s a carboy or barrel (actually doesn’t matter) I recommend you to put the oak chips in a bag and suspend it in the wine so as you can easily remove them if the taste changes and you want to stop the process.