How To Make Wooden Barrels For Excellent Wine

Oak Barrels Can Have An Intense Effect On WineThe first and most important part of making wooden barrels is to find a good tree. A good tree is just not any type of tree that is of good quality.

Chopping down the sycamore tree in your front lawn wouldn’t suffice as the material for wooden barrels for wine storage either.  The so called Quercus robur is the best choice of tree for wooden barrels.

The Quercus robur is one of over four hundred types of oak trees that grow in various places worldwide but is most abundant in both the central and eastern part of France. The French government owns and manages forests that grow these Quercus robur trees that they put up for auction occasionally.

Trees from forests in countries with cool climate produce good oak and are the best source of wood for wooden barrels. Because the growth of the trees in these locations is slow, the grain of the wood is tighter compared to the ones that grow quickly in areas or regions such as Limousin.

Among the best sources of good oak for wooden barrels are the forests of Allier, Vosges, Troncais and Nevers. Slavonia and Russia are also good places to get good oak for wooden barrels however the most prestigious wooden barrels are made of French wood.

Make sure that the trees of the wood for your wooden barrels are planted in a forest with very close spacing. This assures you that the grains of the tree are straight and doesn’t have knots. This is one factor that produces considerable and noticeable differences in the taste of the wine that was both fermented and aged in the wooden barrels.

Another factor to consider to get great quality wine is the age of the tree for the wood of your wooden barrels. It is advisable to choose a tree that is no less than 100 years old, has a straight trunk with no blemishes, and has a circumference of at least 5 feet.

The height of the tree is of no importance since you only need the portion extending from the ground up to the first level lateral branches for your wooden barrels. If you made a good tree choice, then you would have anywhere between 2 to 4 wooden barrels.

You would also need barrel staves for your wooden barrels. Barrel staves are narrow wood strips molded to be the handle or holding sides of the wooden barrels. These can be taken from the usable part of the remaining tree trunk. After you have partitioned the portion of the tree to be used for our wooden barrels, you move on to the next phase – choosing the type of wooden barrel to make. You can choose between Bordeaux wooden barrels (barrique) or Burgundian wooden barrels (piéce). Both these shapes will hold more or less 60 gallons of wine. After all, the only difference between the two is tradition.

One possible difference is that Burgundian cellars are mostly stored underground hence are better off shaped slightly rounder so the wooden barrels could be rolled easier. And because Burgundian wooden barrels are shorter, it fits through inside doorways. Or, Burgundian wooden barrels contain more sediment hence it follows that the white wines fermented in this type of wooden barrels contain more sediment and because this type of wooden barrels have a bigger bulge, the sediments are more concentrated regardless of the method of making the wooden barrels.

The wooden barrels used for Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay are dependent on the Winemaker’s discretion. Either Bordeaux or Burgundian-shaped barrels will be used based on the characteristics that every cooperage passes on to the wooden barrels. For example, if a certain batch of grapes has a good ripe character but is missing a spiciness characteristic, the winemaker could make use of François Fréres piéce wooden barrels to add the spice dimension or character. For wine missing a bit of “length of finish,” the winemaker can use Taransaud barrique type wooden barrels. Wine that needs a bit more weight to give a good balance on the palate are usually stored in Damy piéce wooden barrels.

Every batch of wine, regardless of whether it is red or white will go through an enhancement process in terms of flavor and structure while being fermented and aged in the wooden barrels. You should remember however that wooden barrels used for white wine will only be used for white wine and will never be used for red wine. The same thing goes for red wine wooden barrels — it will never be used for white wine. These two types of wine shall never be mixed!

The logs that are to be made into wooden barrels needs to be split by hand in halves, quarters, and eights before it is split into the exact size of the stave. This makes it possible for you to get twice as much usable staves for your wooden barrels as when you saw the logs but the astringency and tannin of the oak rises to a high level that is unacceptable.

After hand –cutting the logs, take a break to allow your hand cut staves to dry in open air for 3 to 5 years. Drying the logs in open-air reduces the wooden barrel leakage probability and because more tannins are leached from the wood by this drying method, wine gets a softer and finer finish.

Taking a break doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re not going to do anything until the wood for your wooden barrels dry because you would still periodically rotate the rough staves stack and sprinkle the stack with water to keep the humidity level of the wood to about 15 percent until its final level.

You can now form and cut the finely-finished staves for your oak barrels.