Barrel Care

With many of our customers due to take delivery of their new barrel orders in the coming weeks, we have prepared the following guide to assist in inspecting, and preparing your new oak barrels for use.

Barrel Care Video Series

Taking Delivery

Full Inspection

Before First Use

Delivery Inspection

At delivery, preparation of your new barrels is important, so, there are certain steps you need to take to ensure the barrels delivered are the ones you selected, are in good condition and ready to hold your wine.

Immediately at time of delivery you need to reconcile the barrel delivered against what you ordered to make sure it’s what you anticipated. At the same time you should inspect the barrel for any signs of poor handling. Some scuffs and marks are acceptable whilst obvious dents, fractured staves or damaged chimes are not. While still leaving the barrel in its wrapping you can also look for any signs of staining or possible contaminations, including oil or contact with chemicals. If able, remove the bung and smell the barrel to again check for contamination.

At this point if you have any concerns you must immediately inform the cooperage or their representative. Please note that if the barrel is not for immediate use you should leave wrapped to help maintain the relative humidity of the oak.

Preparation for Use

Remove any packaging from the barrel. Remove the bung and smell the barrel to check it is clear of contamination. At this point you can also inspect the barrel hoops. They should be firm with little movement. Drive the hoops if required. If you are storing your barrel for a prolonged duration before use, note that oak shrinkage can occur and cause excessive leaking when it is eventually used. Drive the bilge hoop first, followed by the chime hoop and then the quarter hoops.

Initial leakage is most common at the chime and head boards so we recommend a simple rehydration approach for all barrels. Place 20L of warm water into the empty barrel. The water should be filtered and chlorine free. Insert a silicon bung and roll the barrel, then stand on one end, and leave for 2-3 hours. Rotate the barrel to stand on the other end and leave for 2-3 hours.

Inspect the barrel for signs of leakage. You can then empty the barrel and leave inverted to dry for approximately 1 hour.

The barrel is then ready for use.

If the barrel shows signs of persistent leaking then completely fill the barrel with filtered chlorine-free water and leave for 24-48 hours. Inspect the barrel. If the barrel is still showing signs of leakage then empty and dry the barrel and apply dry sulphur dioxide (as gas) and insert the bung.

If you have a low pressure steam device available then it can be used as an alternative to hot water to swell the oak timber and assess barrel integrity. Note that once the barrel has had water or steam in it, it should be treated as a used barrel for hygiene purposes and if not intended for immediate use must be well drained and dry sulphur dioxide applied with the bung re-inserted.

Correctly seasoned oak should require no conditioning to alter oak phenolic profiles. As such pre-conditioning treatments such as water or water high pH chemical combinations are not recommended for use.