Canadian Oak Cooperage making wine barrels

Wine barrels made from canadian oak


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Welcome to Canadian Oak  manufacturers of barrels in which fine wines can be aged with a truly distinctive Canadian quality...

About Canadian Oak Cooperage

Canadian Oak, Inc. makes wine barrels from Canadian Oak grown in the Niagara Region and other areas of Southern Ontario. The special properties of this oak provide superior qualities to the wine and spirits aged in it.

Premium wine aged in Canadian Oak was available commercially for the first time in 2002. Several high quality Canadian wineries will be releasing Canadian  Oak aged wines in 2003. For more information about where to obtain wine aged in Canadian oak click here.  For more information about where to obtain Premium Canadian Whiskey aged in Canadian Oak barrels click here.  For information on how to order wine barrels click here.

Our research and development has produced a wonderful  host of new options for vintners of premium wines. As a consumer we want to ensure to you the quality of your wine and the unique new experience of Canadian Oak, so look for our logo on each case and bottle of Canadian Oak Aged wine.


Dr. Jim Hedges, a physician working in Hamilton, is well aware of the health benefits of the moderate use of wine.  He is an amateur winemaker and woodworker.  The idea of aging wines in Canadian oak came to him while he was hiking in a forest in Brant county that had an abundance of mature white oak trees. Knowing that many of the finest wines were aged in white oak barrels, predominantly with wood from France and the United States, he wondered if our native white oak would produce similarly fine vessels for aging and whether there would be unique characteristics to such products. His preliminary research suggested that there was a good likelihood that Canadian Oak  would fulfill those expectations and he decided to pursue the idea further.

Dr. Mike Risk is a Professor of Biology and Geology at McMaster University and cross-appointed at Brock University. He is an award-winning amateur winemaker and a dedicated woodworker. As part of his development project in Indonesia he aided that country in developing legislation controlling the sustainable harvesting of hardwood forests.
Dr Hedges brought the idea of Canadian Oak wine barrels forward to Dr Risk during a meeting of their small winemaking group in 1999. Since that time the pair have engaged in research and development of Dr Hedges' idea culminating in the first commercial release of Canadian wines aged in Canadian Oak in 2002.


Dr. Jim Hedges


Dr. Mike Risk

Wine, Oak and the tradition of Wine Barrel Making

The practice of maturing fine wines in oak barrels dates back over 1,000 years.  The “marriage” of oak and wine seems a happy and felicitous one. Originally, most wines were European, most fine wines were French, and French oak was widely used in the aging process. Recently the increasing expense of French oak barrels and the management of this limited resource prompted wineries to look for other sources, especially American oak.  The oaks that are used belong to the white oak species.

The Ontario wine industry is now being recognized for its production of a quality product. When Drs. Hedges and Risk began their experiments in 1999 no Ontario winery had ever considered using Canadian oak, although it is the same species as American oak.  Drs. Hedges & Risk believed that although Canadian oak barrels had never been used commercially for aging wine in Ontario, there is no inherent reason why they would not be a superior product. The oak for barrels is graded, among other factors, on the tightness of the growth lines. The finer the grain, the better the barrel. Our oaks typically have more than twice as many growth lines per inch as the American oaks used in commercial wine barrel production.  Most American oak wine barrels are made from oak which is grown in places like Missouri, Tennessee, and Arkansas where it matures much more quickly in the warmer climate there, producing the coarser grain. Ontario is the northernmost growing region of the North American white oak and thus this harshest of climates that will sustain the trees produces the finest of grains possible.  It is tighter and finer grained than most French oak.  It is also well established that other differing geographic and environmental conditions can impart unique characteristics to the same species of wood when it comes to producing barrels for aging wine. Chemical analysis indicates that there is, in fact, something special about the flavors in our Canadian oak.

There exist only a small handful of winemaking regions in the world that can claim to age their wines in wood from their own region this certainly adds to the completeness of a claim to a purely local character in the final product. Our Niagara region can now enter this select group.

Since initial experimentation began in 1999, appreciation of the quality and the unique characteristics of Canadian oak has grown. The first commercial production of wine aged in Canadian oak was released in 2002 and was sold out immediately.  Since then we have seen many great wines produced Canada and aged in Canadian Oak barrels.

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