Barrel Aging Wine

PoolGate

Gold Supporter
TFP Guide
Jun 7, 2017
3,742
Damascus, MD
I used to make wine but never made a bottle I would classify as being any better than a cheap, $10 table wine. So I stopped making it. Recently, however, I have come to realize that wine (red) is all about barrel aging. I never barrel aged it the best I have done is put into the fermenter some oak sawdust and chips. That didn't do much. But, my wine making partner and I have purchased 20 gallons or so worth of grapes (cab sav, pinot) direct from growers in CA and WA to make another go at it. I also have 2 10 gallon used once for spirits barrels that I got for a great price. The plan this time is to ferment, clarify and barrel the wine. I have read a few things about re-using whisky barrels "as is" for wine but was hoping to get some more perspectives on this. I am capable of reconditioning my 2 barrels and re-toasting them if that is the way to go but would rather avoid that if possible. The plan is to let this wine sit until each of our daughters are 21 (6 years). Should get 60 bottles or so each.

Any takers?
 

mas985

TFP Expert
LifeTime Supporter
May 3, 2007
12,719
Pleasanton, CA
Varietals that stand up well to a whiskey barrel should be Cab (Sauv & Franc), Zin, Syrah, Verdot, etc. but it might be too much for a Pinot. Also aging for 6 years in a barrel will result in over oaked wine (i.e. will start to taste like wood). The rule of thumb is 1-3 weeks per barrel gallon (i.e. related to barrel surface area). So I would not go more than 20 weeks for the cab and 10 weeks for the Pinot although 5 weeks might be enough for the Pinot. You can taste as you go to determine when to pull it. However, both will age well in the bottle IF bottled properly but that is not easy in a DIY operation. Much like pools, sanitation is key.

Also, unless you recooper the barrel which is a lot of work, I would not retoast it. The wine could become too earthy (a.k.a. camp fire). Unless of course the barrels do not have any toast to begin with, then it would be ok.
 

Newdude

Well-known member
Jun 16, 2019
982
NY
On the TV show Moonshiners, they rapid aged a batch by putting the small barrels really close by a roaring fireplace and then putting them outside to cool off (wintertime). Each cycle was the equivalent of a year waiting.
 

Newdude

Well-known member
Jun 16, 2019
982
NY
And the guy who does it legally in a distillery did something similar by slow boiling it with the right wood chips for a week.
 

mas985

TFP Expert
LifeTime Supporter
May 3, 2007
12,719
Pleasanton, CA
On the TV show Moonshiners, they rapid aged a batch by putting the small barrels really close by a roaring fireplace and then putting them outside to cool off (wintertime). Each cycle was the equivalent of a year waiting.
Realy bad idea. There are certain chemical reactions that occur only at higher temperatures plus excess heat will over oxidize the wine and create a dark brick color with many undesirable flavors.

 
Last edited:

Donldson

TFP Expert
LifeTime Supporter
In The Industry
Jun 12, 2009
3,928
NW Ohio
Agree with Mark, the size of the barrel has a big effect. Those little 5 gallon barrels enthusiasts often use have 1/10th the wine but roughly 1/2 the contact surface area of a 50 gallon barrel. So while 18+ months in a 50 gallon barrel is fairly standard it would be way too much for a 10 gallon barrel. Definitely take a sample monthly at a minimum.

Also agree that keeping a homemade wine 6 years is going to be difficult. Make sure every item and surface is thoroughly cleaned and sanitized, almost surgically so (my wife is a nurse and laughs at how little we are actually doing to keep things "sanitary" when we do our wine compared to her work), and get a sulfite test if you don't already have one so you can assure you have enough when you bottle.
 

Newdude

Well-known member
Jun 16, 2019
982
NY
Realy bad idea. There are certain chemical reactions that occur only at higher temperatures plus excess heat will oxidize the wine and create a dark brick color with many undesirable flavors.

They were using whiskey of course. Wine would be a different animal but i was just offering the theory
 

PoolGate

Gold Supporter
TFP Guide
Jun 7, 2017
3,742
Damascus, MD
Whiskey is made hot, wine is never above room temperature so heating is not a good idea.

I have kept my wine longer than 5 years before I think my oldest bottle is coming up on 10 years. I've been making beer and wine for over 20 years and never lost a drop for any reason.

I'm also aware that smaller batches need less aging time in the barrel. I was going to go 6 months and then test monthly thereafter. Also going to drop the Pinot and go with Merlot (and Cab) instead. I might reduce that to 4 months and then test since these barrels are charred instead of toasted.

I've been reading up on dumping the wine into the used whiskey barrels. I can't find anything about any type of barrel prep for this like some sort of sanitation. For a used wine barrel I would need to totally take it apart and recondition each stave. If I can't find anything for or against some specific barrel prep, I will probably make up a batch of Potassium Metabisulfite solution for each barrel just prior to barreling. I'll be water testing/swelling them anyway so as not to lose any wine! Throwing in some Potassium Metabisulfite shouldn't hurt anything as the wine will have it anyway. I don't want any residual fermentation to occur in the barrels and blow my wine all over the place. This endeavor for 20 gallons of wine is already upwards of $1000.
 

Similar threads