When buying wine you will be told that this wine was barrel fermented and that wine was barrel aged. What's the difference? Should you care?
The flavors imparted by oak barrels are highly prized by many wine drinkers. There are those who prefer aged barrels and those who prefer new. There are some who seek out barrel fermented wines. Others will only drink wine that has been barrel aged.
Barrel fermentation occurs when the grape juice is placed into barrels (generally oak). Here the magic occurs and juice turns into wine.
Barrel aging is placing wine in barrels and allowing it to mature. This is the maturation or finishing process.
Sometimes fermentation and maturation take place in the same barrel. If a wine label says, "barrel aged" this means the wine was fermented in another type of container. This is usually stainless steel.
Barrel fermentation is especially beneficial to white wines. Whites that have been barrel fermented have a less dramatic oaky taste. The flavors are better harmonized. The fermentation process, tempers the flavors of the wood, imparting lighter flavors of wood. So, you will find hints of cinnamon, vanilla, or cloves rather than over whelming flavors.
So, if you enjoy wines that are less oaky, try wines that are barrel fermented. Finding your own preference is a matter of trial and error. Of course, the testing process can be quite fun.