The Angel's Share
Last year while visiting a local winery for a field trip, I learned about "the angel's share." The winery we visited still stores the fermenting wine in oak barrels even though many wineries have gone to plastic barrels. The guide explained that the expression "the angel's share" refers to the quantity of the wine (or whiskey) which is lost to evaporation during the aging process for alcohol in oak barrels. The angel's share phenomenon can reduce the amount of alcohol enough to allow the wine's more subtle flavors and textures to emerge - or in the case of whiskey to reduce the proof to mellow it and make it more palatable. It is estimated that the amount of alcohol lost annually is around two percent per barrel.
The evaporating alcohol is called "the angel's share," alluding to an old belief that guardian angels watch over the product as it ages and take their share. Ironically the day of the field trip was October 2 - the Feast of the Guardian Angels and we all thought is was fun to think of angels enjoying a "share" on their feast day. So this year on the Feast of the Guardian Angels I am recalling this fun bit of vintners lore and toasting the angels tonight with a glass of wine.