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Aug 16, 2009
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Hi All,

I just procured my wine barrel, not sure what kind it is. I am told it is 2 years old and was from a Napa Winery.

I am looking to make a good red table wine but am pretty clueless. My co-worker makes his own wine and I hope to get some feedback on here. Looking to compare notes between co-worker and folks on here to see what is the best way to get moving.

I think that I am going to purchase juice in about 8 weeks from a local winery but know I must get my barrel in order. I also need to find a barrel holder, as of now its just sitting upright in my garage.

If anyone has any feed back for me, I am all ears!!!! I have a Sicilian born father in law that I'd like to impress with my wine making skills. We have have a weekly Sunday dinner and would like my wine to be an integral part of this.

Anyhow I am glad to be here and look forward to learning all I can!!!!



Tom R
First of all welcome! Next I just have to ask what size barrel did you buy?

I didn't have to buy it which was a big help and its a full size regular wine barell. Not sure what size that is but its the standard one I have seen all my life. Does that help? :)
Welcome aboard. First thing you need to do is try to get a history on the barrel to see if you can find out how many batches have been made on it to determine if it will release any further oak essence. Also you want to know the toast of the wood. Every batch takes oak character away. You need to find this out to determine about how long you will need to leave the wine in contact with wood. Of course you can leave it and just keep tasting it to determine the desired oak level.

You will then need to prepare the barrel with sulfite solutions and burning sulfur wicks. It is normally recommended to not use a used barrel unless you bought it new or really know what you are doing. I recommend the book From Vines to Wines for an easy to read overview of winemaking including using barrels and their care and treatment. It isn't rocket science but then again it isn't as easy as washing it out and dumping in the wine. You can easily spoil or infect a whole lot of expensive juice without pre-planning and preparing.
As Smurfe was saying, be very careful about using used barrels as they could easily have gotten an infection and usually once that has happened its almost entirely impossible to fix that problem and will ruin your wine. Heres some info on upkeep
Barrel Maintenance

• The single most important factor in barrel maintenance is quality
of water.

• Municipal water supplies can be heavily chlorinated. Water from
a well can have high sulfur and iron levels.

• Water should be checked for these elements and a filter installed
if necessary.

• Because of the physical structure and nature of wood it is
impossible to completely sterilize a barrel.

• If a barrel is well maintained and cleaned properly, the chance of
any undesirable organisms getting a toehold is reduced

• Any chemical introduced into a wood barrel will penetrate into
the wood.

• Using hot water will increase this penetration.

• A rinse with SO2 followed by a citric acid rinse is usually good
enough to clean a barrel between fillings of wine.

• If a chemical in powder form is being added to a barrel, make
sure it is completely dissolved in water first. Direct addition of a
powder will form a hard deposit inside the barrel.

• Any cleaning or rinsing of a barrel should be followed with a
citric acid rinse. Citric acid is good at keeping the wood

• If a barrel needs to be stored with water for a few days, add SO2
to keep spoilage organisms out and citric acid to keep the pH

• Mix and add the SO2 and citric acid separately for the most
effective results.

• This solution should be changed every few days.

• If a barrel is not going to be used for a while, it is probably best
left empty.

• It should be rinsed as usual and then burn a sulfur wick in the

• Sulfur wicks come in strips or disks and are easy enough to use.
• A wine barrel should be completely dry before burning a sulfur
wick or the sulfur gas will combine with water to form sulfuric
acid which is absorbed into the wood.

• A 60 gallon wine barrel will require about a half of a sulfur wick.

• The wick should be lit from the top to avoid ash in the barrel.

• The wick will burn for about five minutes after which the barrel
should be bunged tightly.

• This process should be repeated about every month until the
barrel is again used for wine storage.

• If a barrel has been stored dry for a time, it may need to be
soaked to swell the wood back tight.

• Sometimes it may take up to a week to swell a barrel. If this is
the case, sweeten the water with SO2 and citric acid the same as
for short time storage.

• Proper care of oak barrels will give many years of reliable and
healthy cooperage.

Lots and lots of information for me to understand and work through, very thorough thanks!!!

I checked the barell and have some info from it that may help narrow down what was in it and how old it may be.

Radoux barell from Darioush vineyard, says traditional radoux mt+6

Any thoughts on that?


I have nothing on wooden barrels but would just like to say hi and welcome.:h

Thanks for the welcome Leanne! Can't wait to get started on my first wine making attempt! Hopefully all the excitement results in a decent tasting wine!
I don't have a barrel but have used enough oak alternatives to be able to help you with some of the info you got off the barrel. mt+ refers to the level of toasting the barrel was originally given. That mt+ means medium toast +( slightly more toast then medium). As others have pointed out though after enough uses the barrel wont have anything left to impart flavor to a wine unless you have it recondtioned and re-toasted.How does the inside of the barrel smell?
barrel smell

Well I have yet to smell the inside but I have it currently in my garage and it smells like I have open bottles of wine in my garage?!?!?

What kind of smell am I looking for?

HI BACK Allie!
The smell your looking for is exactly what you have right now. If it smells like vinigar or other off smells you probably wouldn't want to use it for wine. Follow what Wade posted for you on proper barrel use and storage and you should be fine.
Well I have yet to smell the inside but I have it currently in my garage and it smells like I have open bottles of wine in my garage?!?!?

What kind of smell am I looking for?

HI BACK Allie!
Racer I think he is talking about the barrel smell. i imagine it should smell toasty or slightly burnt. If no smell at all it will probably need help.
It looks like Wade is our barrel expert. makes sense, he carries one around all the time ha ha
sorry Wade we know that is not true......dont we?
Im no barrel expert, I dont even have 1,, YET!!! I do a lot of reading though and copy and paste stuff that I think I can use or that will be a good resource for my peoples!!!!:)
Racer I think he is talking about the barrel smell. i imagine it should smell toasty or slightly burnt. If no smell at all it will probably need help.

Sorry I was a little too short handed with the reply. Smell the inside of the barrel. If it smells like wine it should be ok.No smell would be ok too but since its been used for wine already that probably wont be the case. Smells like fingernail polish remover or other off odors are big warning signs to not use it for wine again.

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