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The importance of barrel

Barrels are among the most important factors that influence the process of maturing wine. We’ve already discussed the way that wine changes due to the the time spent in bottle and barrel making it a Crianza, Reserva or Gran Reserva however it is evident it is the fact that maturing process takes place in different barrels is also important. That’s why in this article, we’d like to be aware of these aspects so you know why they are crucial. Let’s get started!

A brief history of the web: from the amphora all the way to the barrel

Are you curious how wine was first stored in barrels? This is an interesting story where the luck (or fate) played a significant impact. Are you curious about more about it? Continue going!

As we’ve already discussed over two thousand years ago, wine was transported using clay amphorae. This was not the most efficient of ways to transport large quantities because the jars easily broken or cracked. It was believed that the Phoenicians, Greeks and Romans needed a better way to boost the volume of wine trade and the solution was found in the Celts.
The Celtic peoples, who resided within their native North as well as the Centre of Europe, worked extensively using wood, a substance that was plentiful in the areas they lived and which they used to construct their homes, boats, and vessels.

In the beginning, they were able to construct watertight vessels by making hollows in trunks, but at a later time, they began to build the first barrels by cutting them into staves (the term used to describe the planks with curved edges which make up the barrel) and gluing them together by using wicker rings or wood. You may have guessed when the Romans learned of this advancement and embraced the same method.

Barrels fulfilled, thus the need for transportation. Then, in the 18th century, French realized it being true that wines stored through barrels didn’t just make it to its destination in perfect condition, but tasted much better! What transpired on the way to enhance the quality of wine better?

The answer today is intuitive, given that we are aware of the way in the barrel adds the colour, aroma, and taste to wines, in the past, winemakers were required to test first of all, the significant role played by the barrel in relation to wine quality and, later, which type of wood would yield the most effective results.

Barrel types

Today, barrels are believed to look very similar to the first barrels. They are made of curved staves, which are joined with iron rings, making an elongated cylinder. It is was sealed at each end by lids that are circular.
In the case of barrels, size matters and the substance it’s made of, let’s say, wood, is equally important.

Dimensions of barrels are crucial because, generally speaking the bigger the barrel the less effect it will have on the maturation of the wine, as there is less surface area that is in close contact with wine (which is, as we’ve observed is crucial in developing secondary scents). Today, the most frequently used barrel in terms dimensions is the 225-litre Bordeaux barrel, the sole one with a permit for the maturation of wines within the D.O. Ca Rioja

The most sought-after hardwood: American and French oak

When you think of barrels, it’s likely that the first thought that you think of is oak. While there is no doubt that oak is one of the commonly utilized wood for making barrels, it’s not to suggest that it is the sole one. Barrels are constructed from cherry wood and pine as well as acacia, pine and chestnut… although in very limited instances.
However, it remains the king of the hill due to the chemical makeup (that is the reason of the aroma compounds transfer to wine) as well as its physical makeup (good quality of water tightness and easy to control within the cooperage) but, of course there are many different varieties of oak that are the same. American as well as French oak are two of the most frequently used, but they’re not the same:

  • American oak “Quercus alba” is the most porous, and therefore it allows more oxygen get to the wine, resulting in better wine that has been matured for shorter periods of time and develop more rapidly. This is due to the fact that “the grain” or the space between the growth rings is greater than that of French oak. On the other hand , it is a type of oak that has lower tannin levels that French oak. This is the kind of wood we use for our Crianza.
  • French oak “Quercus Robur on contrary is more dense and has less pores (as its growth rings are close) which means that the wine’s development is slower within it. This makes it ideal for wines that have been aged long. This kind of oak imparts more tannins to wine. In our Reserva we make use of a mix of both oaks. In the aging process for our Gran Reserva The barrels are made of 100 100% French oak. It is essential to note that not all wines of young age are able to age in brand new French oak barrels… it could be the case that the oak overpowers the wine and does not lead to the desired result!

Another factor to be considered when it comes to wood is the degree of toasting, it can be either light medium, high or even light. the entire interior of the barrel could be toasty or just the staves, with fresh oak at the outside. We’re certain that you’ll be able to be able to guess, the degree of toast can have a direct impact on the strength and intensity of the wines aromas, as well as the commercial appeal that’s sought after.

You have a better understanding of how the relationship between wood and wine was born. It was either an unlucky coincidence or chance event There is no doubt that this is a love affair that will last forever. It’s a win-win!

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