Oak barrels are great for aging wine and beer, but for the home based brewer and vintner, they are not very feasible. In come oak chips. Oak chips help to get those oak-aged characteristics in your homebrew or wine, without the hassle of a barrel. French medium toast chips are a bit more subdued than their American counterparts, but impart a great deal of mouth feel, and have some great spice characteristics like cinnamon and allspice.
For the home vintner, chips can be used in your secondary to help give added complexity to your wine. Home brewers can soak these in a favorite spirit such as bourbon, for a couple weeks then add to your secondary when racking. Oak chips are relatively thin and have a high surface area, so their oak characteristics are imparted quicker than their cubed siblings. Regardless of how you plan to use them, make sure first to boil them for at least 10 minutes to sanitize, drain, and then their ready to use.