How big are those barrels? We use 59 gallon size barrels which holds enough wine for about 24 cases, give or take a bottle or two. Why do we barrel age wine at all? Think about it in this way. If you have a raw piece of wood that needs the edge taken off and you’d like to use it as a frame, you’d take it to the shop and start sanding and shaping it. The same thing happens in barrel-the wine is raw and rough when it is transferred and aging for one year, on average, helps to smooth out those edges. There are more benefits to aging including aeration, concentration and oak notes like toast-something the cooper (barrel maker) does to increase the flavor components in the wine. The process gives the wine, over time, more complexity as it takes on some aspects of the wood itself. Aeration slowly incorporates oxygen thereby smoothing the tannins; concentrationis next and with evaporation of water and even alcohol you get concentrated flavors. Did you know we lose about a gallon or two to this process? Oak flavor comes from the toasting of the wood-which caramelizes (bruleé anyone?) and infuses the aging wine with extra flavor. More later as I take a few more blog posts to talk about this important step in a wine’s life. Thirsty? How about a nicely aged Cabernet in your glass.
Cellar crew member Hector Lopez with a barrel wand, emptying one vintage to make room for the next.