Barrels which are more than 20 years old can still affect the flavour of the wine being stored in them, according to a number of important figures in the drinks industry.
According to Mathieu Kauffman, Bollinger's chef de cave, a barrel which is more than 20 years old continues to impart oak aromas to the beverage being stored inside.
The claim flies in the face of the commonly-held belief that oak barrels older than five years have no such effect.
Mr Kauffman was speaking to attendees of the Fine and Rare Specialist wine course at the Palais Coburg, defending Bollinger's decision to use 100 per cent old barrels in the fermentation of its fine champagnes.
Although admitting that the effect was small, Mr Kauffman said that it was "big enough for champagne" and that the slow micro-oxidation of the wine saw "young aromas of pear and peach change into something more like sherry…and you get more body".
He did, however, advocate the use of cork over the crown seal, saying the superiority in taste was especially noticeable in a wine that has been aged for more than five years.
This is due to the rate at which wine breathes – faster in the first year, but extremely slowly after that.
Mr Kauffman's views on using cork to seal wine bottles were echoed the following day by Dom Perignon's chef de cave Richard Geoffery, when he was invited to speak out at the same event.
When referring to the bottles destined for Dom Perignon's private seller, he emphasised that the wines were always sealed with cork.
Mr Geoffery stated: "Each bottle is hand disgorged and checked and tasted, and uses two corks.
"It has got to be cork. It’s not that the crown seal is bad, but cork proves far superior on the longer run."
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