How To Clean Your Oak Barrel When Aging Wine
The wine pours out of the barrel and it is delicious. It has a smoother feel on the palate and the liquid has a much deeper taste. The barrel has given you levels of flavor to explore and there is the satisfaction. You have conquered aging your own wine in an oak barrel and it feels good. But, now what? You’ve got the wine and this empty oak barrel. The barrel needs to be cleaned and stored properly so that it can be used again, and the next batch is sure to be better; you have gained valuable experience.
The barrel should be cleaned right away. The inside of the barrel is a ripe environment for spoilage organisms. These spoilage organisms are also known as bad bacteria that will cause nasty smells that grow into the wood. The barrel needs to be cleaned so that it is an environment where these organisms cannot live.
It is a good idea to start boiling some water when you go to remove the aged wine. Boil more water than the barrel can hold. You can even go nuts and boil two to three times the amount the barrel will hold.
Drain the wine into your vessels and seal the drink. Then get that hot water into the barrel. Fill the barrel about half way with the hot water rinse, slosh it around and then drain. Repeat this process until the water rinses clear. This rids the barrel of all the wine residue.
It is important that the water is hot for this step because you want that barrel wood to expand with the heat. This will open up the pores in the wood and allow the wine that is hiding in there to rinse out. This will cause the barrel to swell and now it is time to rinse the aging vessel with some cold water. You want the wood to contract and create a seal so those organisms can’t wiggle themselves into the wood.
Keep the bung open and allow the barrel to dry completely. If you don’t plan on using the barrel immediately after drying then you should prepare it for storage. This requires the purchase and use of a sulfur stick that needs to be lowered into the barrel and burned. Otherwise, you can load that barrel right back up with your favorite wine and let it age to perfection.