The winemakers have the expression “a barrel makes wine.” In fact, of course, not only and not so much a barrel – the grape variety and quality, aging and many other factors are of great importance. However, the importance of the wine barrel in which the wine ripens, cannot be underestimated to create a quality and tasty drink, which is proved by the aforementioned phrase. Today we tell you about what and how barrels are made for wine. We already wrote about barrels of wine before but decided to go deeper into the topic.
Oak – The Best Wood for Wine Barrel
The vast majority of the best modern wine barrels are made from oak. Even the ancient Romans drew attention to the fact that the wine stored in oak barrels acquires a characteristic, very pleasant taste, and aroma, and therefore the barrels almost immediately replaced the amphora from use. Other wood does not give such an effect, although sometimes winemakers still used, and in rare cases continue to use barrels of cherry, chestnut, walnut, teak, pine, spruce, acacia.
Moreover, of the three hundred oak varieties, only a few dozens are suitable for the production of wine barrels, and the best is the Slavonian (growing in Hungary, Serbia, Croatia and some other European countries) and American oak, as well as the French oak from Limousin and central France: Fontainebleau, Trance, Nevers, Allier. The wood of these trees is quite different in structure, density and flavor, which it gives the wine. However, it has an important common virtue: it is microporous, which allows the wine to “breathe” – to be saturated with micro-doses of oxygen in the process of aging (scientifically, this process is called “micro-oxidation”).
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Classical French Drum Technology
If in France they do the best, in the opinion of many connoisseurs, wine, then it is not surprising that the best barrels for him also produce here. In other countries, and even in different cooperative workshops in France, some stages of making a wine barrel may differ. For example, somewhere for baking in a barrel, which still does not have a bottom, a bonfire is bred, and somewhere in it they spread burning sawdust and roll a barrel, watching that it does not become charred, but only acquired a golden shade. However, the principle of manufacturing barrels, in any case, will be close to classical technology, so let’s talk about it in detail.
FRENCH TECHNOLOGY: STAGE 1
French kondari (masters for the production of barrels), use oaks aged no less than 100 years, and make barrels only from the bottom of the trunk portion. The wooden workpiece is cut first into 2 parts, then each is cut into two pieces, and so until the entire workpiece is cut into plates of a certain thickness – they are called rivets.
Since the freshly piloted wood has too strong a smell capable of breaking a delicate aroma of wine, the staves are subject to various influences:
- stand, sometimes up to five years, under snow and rain, wind and a scorching sun;
- Freeze or vice versa, heat.
As a result of these effects, the aroma of oak becomes more subtle, the tree leaves an extra tannin capable of spoiling the wine, it gets more strength and moisture resistance.
FRENCH TECHNOLOGY: STAGE 2
The rivets are gathered in the form of barrels, tightly clamped at the ends – so that there is not even the slightest gap, and fixed with metal hoops. Then they pass to the other side of the barrel: the ends of the rivets are treated with fire or steam, from which they bend and allow them to put on them the second hoop. Sometimes for greater reliability and for decorative purposes, the hoops are worn more – four or even six. Doña has not yet been inserted – they pre-bake the barrel.
It is believed that exactly the degree of the firing of the wine barrel has the greatest influence on the taste and aroma of the future wine:
- Light roasting will give the drink notes of flowers and fruits, as well as vanilla.
- Medium firing will enhance the vanilla flavor and add notes of other spices, almonds, and coconuts, fried bread, and caramel.
- Strong roasting is rarely used, as it powerfully enriches the wine with the aroma of smoke and chocolate. Few wines, except for particularly seasoned, saturated and full-bodied, it paints.
FRENCH TECHNOLOGY: STAGE 3
After firing in the wine barrel is installed bottoms, perfectly fitted in size. As a rule, they are also made of rivets, but in small barrels, they are also carved from a single piece of wood. Sometimes for reliability in the barrel put the second bottom. Then it is punched a hole or two holes for pouring and draining the liquid. Often one of the holes is equipped with a crane – usually also oak or made of stainless steel or brass.
FRENCH TECHNOLOGY: STAGE 4
Finally, the barrel is polished from the outside, treated with wax, if necessary decorated – braided with rope, painted, applied ornament. The barrel is ready to go to the winery or for sale. Before use, it will need to be treated: soak with water, scald with boiling water; some winemakers wash barrels and conduct other preparatory manipulations. In any case, the processing and decorating work on the creation of the barrel end.