Some grapes have really intense natural grape tannin that add complexity, but sometimes at a cost. This cost is often perceived as harshness. Oak is a wonderful solution to round out these wines by softening those tannins and polishing out the mouthfeel. Oak can create a perceived sweetness in these flavor profiles and help integrate harsh tannins.
We recommend adding 2-5 lbs per ton of oak powder, fines or small chips at fermentation, based on the expected intensity of grape tannin. Then smell and taste the tank after primary fermentation and make a secondary addition to short or long age the wine on oak through secondary fermentation.
The toast level of the oak used depends on the type of grape in question and the winemaker’s style. Lighter toasts impact in a more fruit-lifting way that preserves freshness and natural fruit-driven profile. Heavier toasts impact more forcefully and can mask more unfavorable characteristics with oak compounds such as vanilla, butterscotch, chocolate, etc. Consult an oak specialist for a recommendation.