Botti — size matters!
Many traditional Italian wine producers have eschewed the newfangled use of small French barrique (225 litre oak barrels) preferring instead to produce wines that remain faithful to their traditional Italian roots by ageing in large botti.
Such botti, traditionally made with oak from the forests of Slavonia (an historic region now located in Croatia) may last for decades and longer, and the old wood, sometimes encrusted with tartrates and sediment within the barrels, may not lend any obvious flavours to the finished wine. The superficial area of wine in contact with wood in such large barrels is much less than in 225 litre barriques. However, traditionalists say that the character and tipicità of Italian wine can for many wines be more purely revealed through ageing in botti without the distraction of the flavours of new oak. Wine should be an expression of the grapes, not of wood, they argue. And furthermore, they consider that the fashion for using new French oak, like the tendency to plant international grape varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay at the expense of indigenous grapes, is a process that inevitably homogenises Italian wines and makes them taste more and more like wines from anywhere else.