The forests of France currently being cut down for barrels are 200 years old, and are being depleted at four times the necessary rate because so many winemakers have failed to examine sensible approaches to conservation. If you about 25% of the high quality wood outside the heart and inside the cambium can be split and shapen into a stave which ends up in a piece of fine furniture that seals properly 75% thus gets simply thrown away because chips have a lousy image. Pretty stupid.
Kudos to Eric Asimov of The Pour for another article telling it like it is. Journalism like this makes it possible for winemakers like Mike Havens and Randy Dunn to come forth honestly about their use of micro-oxygenation or reverse osmosis. In the current reactionist environment, make no mistake that these men are heros.
The issue in overoaked wines is not excess, it's artlessness.
Jim Concannon used to say that oak should work in wine like garlic in cuisine -- you use it to accentuate and lift the wine's native flavors. On the other hand, there do exist "lovers of the stinking rose," and sometimes to appeal to these freaks (as at the Gilroy Garlic Festival) garlic becomes the whole theme of a dish. It's fun for a while. So with oak, and many a novice has been temporarily taken in, later to scorn its excessive use.
In The Impoverished Student's Book of Cookery, Drinkery and Housekeepery, Jay F Rosenberg offers "A Brief Essay on Horsemeat" in which he advances the thesis that the only reason we do not consume the flesh of a horse is that there is no cute sexy name for it. We don't speak of eating cow, pig and baby sheep. I'm not sure I agree, for I do feel humans are the better for respecting our noble synergies with Labradour Retrievers, Tonkinese cats and Arabian stallions, and it even grieves me to see the gentle affable skate on a menu.
A terrific new site has emerged called Appellation America, which while ambitiously furthering the notion of transforming the way we think about wine in this country, also takes on current issues generally and promises to be a rewarding stop for oeno-surfing.
Any winemaker will tell you it's got to be in the grapes. Winemaking goals have value only when the grapes they start with contain flavor, color and tannin appropriate to the targeted wine style, and the whole exercise is pointless absent distinctive terroir expression.