If you are a wine lover, you may be wondering why wine is stored in barrels, and what happens during the storage time to make the wine age and become so tasteful. The theory behind wine barrels is centuries old and allows small amounts of evaporation to take place during the aging process.
Oak barrels are especially a popular choice as they leave their unique taste in the wine. Wine that is aged in oak barrels tends to develop a slight vanilla flavor. There are two big differences in the wood preparation and techniques of barrel construction that affect the way the staves are prepared. One way is to let the wood air-dry for up to 2 years to develop the ideal seasoning.
The other method is using a kiln drying method to season the wood. The staves for whiskey barrels are sawn instead of being split. Traditional French barrel makers split the wood right along the grain which creates more subtle effects to the wine.
In the construction process of the barrel, when the barrel is partially intact, it is placed over a wood fire stove. The inside of the barrel is allowed to be charred. The amount of charring in the barrel affects the properties of the wine that is being aged in them.
There are many different sizes of barrels used in wine making and also varying degrees of thickness that all account for the different types of wine stored in them and the end result of the wine after it is properly aged.
Before wine is stored in the oak barrels it is typically fermented in stainless steel tanks. Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are two grape varieties often fermented and aged using the same oak barrels which creates a stronger oak taste.
Although various techniques have been developed to extend the use of barrels, the traditional methods are proven to work and create full-flavored, delicious wine. There have been improvements and changes in techniques that have been implemented and add to the overall taste and process of aging the wine.