Hydrating Oak Barrels

Ready for wine!
Ready for wine!

With the red grapes finishing their ferments in the open top bins we have been preparing oak barrels to store the pressed wine in.  Most of them have already been used, have been sitting empty and are dried out in our low humidity environment.  Have you had an old piece of furniture, say a chair, that gets wiggly and unstable?  Same concept at work here; but we can’t use furniture polish or oils on the barrels.

Sometimes barrels dry out while they sit empty; using water to rehydrate them is more efficient than losing wine for that purpose.
Sometimes barrels dry out while they sit empty; using water to rehydrate them is more efficient than losing wine for that purpose.

During the last week there have been barrels that have dribbled a few drops of water and sealed up nicely and there have been a couple that would have made stunning fountains in the right place they were so dry.  There is the option of having a cooper rework the barrels (long before we needed them) or tamping the rings a smudge tighter, but it was only the two worst barrels that would have benefited from that work.  Each of them took two or three days to seal.  Steam, hot water (until the hot water heater runs out), soaking the outside of the barrel head (the end of the barrel) and just running water through them until they finally seal again was required.

We have a few new barrels, only one had a few small leaks when we filled it.

Here’s to delicious oak characteristics that we love in our wine! Cheers!

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