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Hey Folks,
Looking to get some advice regarding initial Vadai 23L barrel treatment which is on its way. I have scoured the forums and read everything available but am left with a few questions. Planning to age my wine minimum 1 year (combo of barrel, bulk, bottle) before drinking.

First off, If am using my vadai barrel should I skip any and all prior oak treatments during primary/secondary as recommended by the kitmaker? Reasoning behind either approach would be valuable. I understand treatment may change one the barrel is neutral in a couple years time.

Sulfite: Many folks say SO2 levels are quite difficult to predict when barrel aging and that the only way to be sure is via the vinmetrica S02 kit. As the test is a $300, i'm wondering if folks have had successes (or failures - as in oxegenated wine, or too much sulfite) using other methods.

Last, the folks at FVW said my first kit may only need a week in the barrel, the second only 2 weeks. But many folks here start at 4 weeks and double accordingly. Just trying to schedule accordingly. As such, my schedule looks like this:
Assuming 4 weeks is proper for first batch
1. En Primeur super tuscan: 4 weeks
2. MM All Master Granbarile (barolo) 8 weeks
3. Winexpert Eclipse Pinot Noir: 16 weeks
4. CC Showcase Amarone: 32 weeks
5. Suggestions welcome
 

ehammonds

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I skipped the kit provided oak additions and just relied on the vadai, at least until neutral. Results have been good. My barrel is neutral and is 23 liters too. I age my wines six months now and currently have the EP Super Tuscan In There now. I do not have a reliable sulfite tester and instead have relied on adding 1/4 teaspoon every month. Like the pull and pray method, this may eventually fail but so far has been fine. I've run probably 8 wines through the barrel, starting off with a schedule similar to yours
 

jburtner

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I have a new Vadia just like you - I did my first @ 2wks (super tuscan) and it already had some oak from the kit and extra I had added. Second is in now and I'm guessing I'll do 3-4 weeks for that one - Amarone.

I have several in bulk aging now plus more waiting to start so should not be an issue keeping it filled till neutral and longer.

So far I like what it has done in two weeks much more than spirals in for 8 weeks and expect it will get better as it works towards neutral. There's another place I want to check out that sells used whiskey barrels - http://www.homebrewing.com/equipment/whiskey-barrel/

Cheers!
-johann
 

Boatboy24

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I've used three different 23 liter Vadai barrels at least for a bit on kits, prior to dedicating two of them to grape wines. The current 'kit barrel' is about 3 1/2 years old and way neutral. I usually soak in sulfited water for at least a few days when breaking in and my first wine through would go about 4 weeks.

The only oak I skipped when the barrel wasn't neutral was any cubes that were included for bulk aging. Chips or dust that is included for use during primary is more about tannins than oak nose/flavors.

Sulfite: I do have a couple wines that I feel are slightly oxidized (only got a Vinmetrica about 6 months ago). If I were doing it all over again, I'd get the Vinmetrica much, much sooner. Can you barrel age without one? Certainly, but you are taking significant risk. Sulfite levels can drop to 0 over 3 months in a barrel of that size, so you need to be careful. ALWAYS keep it topped up - this can mean as often as weekly, if you have a dry environment. And you may want to think about adding 1/8tsp of KMeta monthly.

In terms of time, 3-4 months is about the sweet spot with kits, so plan accordingly. I've had a couple that went longer, but that was either of no additional benefit or maybe even detrimental.

Schedule wise, here's what I'd plan on, but also plan on tasting along the way. You want the oak to be just beyond your desired level, as it will fall back once you rack out of the barrel.

Wine 1: 3-5 weeks
Wine 2: 6-8 weeks
Wine 3: 8-10 weeks
Wine 4: 12 weeks
 

AZMDTed

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Congratulations on the new barrel. I have 2 now and really enjoy them. I want to echo what most have said above about S02 levels. I realized this weekend that I learned the hard way on that. I have a 15 month old Eclipse Lodi Cab that was my first wine to spend 3 months in a barrel. I added kmeta before it went in and after it came out. This weekend I tried a bottle and while it isn't fully oxidized, I believe that it's well on it's way. The first bottle I tasted had no odor and a muddy/earthy taste. I opened a second bottle hoping for a different result and I got one. The second bottle has a bit of an aroma, and the flavor has some fruitiness to it, but it is somewhat tart. Not a biting flavor from CO2, tartness.

I did some reading up on oxidation and got both results as an indication. The interesting thing is that if I forget that it's supposed to Cabernet, it's actually not too bad. I'm going to try it chilled tonight and see what I think of it. I did read on one site where there is an obscure method to one type of winemaking that includes partial oxidation to bring a bit of tartness as a desired trait. So, that's what I'm going with, I made a tart wine. Anyway, it's going into drinking rotation quickly to keep from losing any more bottles than I have too.

My other batches have had a 1/4 tsp of kmeta mixed with wine used to top of the barrels once a month. Every other week I just top up with wine. You may be surprised at how much wine the barrels lose. I'm putting in almost a cup every other week.

You should also get some barrel wax with it. Hang on to it. Even if you follow all the prep guidelines and there's zero water leaking, you may find that wine has a way of following weaknesses way better than water. Don't panic, just backtrack the leak to the source, clean it up, dry it up, apply the barrel wax and you'll be fine.

A tip, if you enjoy Chardonnay, break in your barrel by fermenting a chardonnay in it before you do anything with reds. Leaves a very nice taste on the wine.

Have fun.
 

David219

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Congrats on your barrel! The schedule that I found to work for me was very similar to what Boatboy posted. The first wine through my barrel was a WE Selection Shiraz. It was only in for a touch over 4 weeks and was VERY oaky...at least to my taste. And it really hasn't faded, now over 3 1/2 years post-barrel. I still have a couple of bottles left and opened one about two months ago.

I might be a bit concerned about rotating a Pinot Noir through so early in your schedule. Maybe it won't soak up the oak as well or as much as another varietal (like a Shiraz), but I think of Pinot Noir as a more...nuanced...wine. For me, I would wait until the barrel was neutral before running a Pinot Noir through. That way, it could spend three or four months in and get the other barrel benefits and not pick up much oak, if any. If you like oak and wanted more, you could add some after tasting. Good Luck!
 

mainshipfred

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I've used three different 23 liter Vadai barrels at least for a bit on kits, prior to dedicating two of them to grape wines. The current 'kit barrel' is about 3 1/2 years old and way neutral. I usually soak in sulfited water for at least a few days when breaking in and my first wine through would go about 4 weeks.

The only oak I skipped when the barrel wasn't neutral was any cubes that were included for bulk aging. Chips or dust that is included for use during primary is more about tannins than oak nose/flavors.

Sulfite: I do have a couple wines that I feel are slightly oxidized (only got a Vinmetrica about 6 months ago). If I were doing it all over again, I'd get the Vinmetrica much, much sooner. Can you barrel age without one? Certainly, but you are taking significant risk. Sulfite levels can drop to 0 over 3 months in a barrel of that size, so you need to be careful. ALWAYS keep it topped up - this can mean as often as weekly, if you have a dry environment. And you may want to think about adding 1/8tsp of KMeta monthly.

In terms of time, 3-4 months is about the sweet spot with kits, so plan accordingly. I've had a couple that went longer, but that was either of no additional benefit or maybe even detrimental.

Schedule wise, here's what I'd plan on, but also plan on tasting along the way. You want the oak to be just beyond your desired level, as it will fall back once you rack out of the barrel.

Wine 1: 3-5 weeks
Wine 2: 6-8 weeks
Wine 3: 8-10 weeks
Wine 4: 12 weeks
Jumping in here. I knew the time for the first wine was short but I never imagined it would be 3-5 weeks. Was thinking it would be more like 3-4 months. I think I now have a carboy issue. I will have water in my new 6.6g barrel for about a week or two before I rack the wine to make sure it doesn't leak. This is the second day and there are no leaks. Would this much time leach too much oak?
 

Boatboy24

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Jumping in here. I knew the time for the first wine was short but I never imagined it would be 3-5 weeks. Was thinking it would be more like 3-4 months. I think I now have a carboy issue. I will have water in my new 6.6g barrel for about a week or two before I rack the wine to make sure it doesn't leak. This is the second day and there are no leaks. Would this much time leach too much oak?
I've done a week-long break-in. It just gets you closer to that 5 week mark is all. You could always put the first two in for only 2-3 weeks, then go longer on the next two and rotate the first two back in for a second swim later.
 

mainshipfred

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I've done a week-long break-in. It just gets you closer to that 5 week mark is all. You could always put the first two in for only 2-3 weeks, then go longer on the next two and rotate the first two back in for a second swim later.
If I'm understanding you correctly my only problem will be my other wines are 6 gallons. This is a 6.6 which I assumed would work for 6 gallons of juice and one lug of grapes with enough left to top. Great idea though, maybe I can do some blending of the other wines.
 

sdb8440

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Congrats on the Vadia, they are fabulous compared to the others available here in the GWN. I chose to ferment 2 cool climate chardonnay's back to back in my barrels before letting a red in. This had the benefit of stretching out the time the first batches of red can spend in there, increasing the concentration effect. As far as Kmeta, I have been adding an extra 1/4 tsp in when I put it into the barrel, each batch is in for 4 months now and I also add an 1/8th tsp at bottling. I have only experienced oxidization when I forgot to add the extra and never after bottling.

What I have learned (from experience)though is topping up so often isn't needed. I used to top weekly, then every two weeks and now I may go as far as two months. The key is using a silicone bung which doesn't allow much if any air past the seal...I get a "pop" when I open mine now which is suggesting a vacuum inside the barrel. I've been doing this for the last two years and I think the end product is actually better as you eliminate exposing the wine to air via multiple top ups.

I am sure others have more experience than me, this is just my opinion from doing 10-12 kits a year over the last 10 years.

Speaking of top up, what is your plan there? Here our taxes are so high on wine that it started to raise the price of the finished product a lot, so I started to do two identical kits simultaneously so I would have a perfect and cheaper match for topping up.
 

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