Consider it as an accident or a revolutionizing event it has to be one of the best things that might have happened in history. Without it, I can’t even imagine where we would have been!
Oh wait, you don’t know what I’m talking about, do you?
Sorry about that, but I’m talking about how aging wine in oak barrels came into existence.
The Romans did that!
Yeah, can you believe it?
Leaving aside all the disgusting things that went on in the Roman Empire, their decision to adopt the method of aging wine from Gauls was a great decision, considering they were such fans of wine.
Before being introduced to oak wood, the Romans used to store and transport their wine in clay amphorae. But as they fought to expand their empire, it became tough to move wine due to how heavy the containers were.
The Gauls were probably the first people to use oak barrels to transport their beer due to the airtight nature of the wood. There were many other reasons, of course, behind this.
- Oakwood is soft, and so it becomes easier to bend it.
- The tightly composed grains of the wood made it airtight and waterproof!
- Oak was readily available, in abundance, if I may add.
- Wood is lightweight which makes transportation easy.
- In spite of being toasted lightly, it could last years.
We’ve not strayed far from the tracks that the Romans led us on. We still use oak barrels to age wines to get smooth and delicate flavors in it. In fact, we’re at the stage where we buy used barrels to age our wines at home! I’m sure you know people do that!
Maybe you’ve thought about it as well but never got around to actually following through.
You could do this too! Barrels can be used for various purposes even after they’ve been used commercially for years. A lot of wineries tend to throw out barrels once they’ve crossed their 5-year threshold when in reality they can be used for more than 50 years. Some say the older the barrel, the better the wine.
I know you can already taste the exceptional wine you sipped on your special day. The feeling of wine that has been aged to add textures and smoothness to it will linger, for the better.
The oak not only enhances the wine’s flavor but also improves its structure, aroma, and the aging process as a whole.
So go ahead and buy used wine barrels and begin the process of aging wine at home,
It’s fairly simple.
The aging of wine depends on the type of grape that has been used. Each species of grape has a unique strain and flavor. Say for example a Pinot Noir has a fruity yet complex flavor and doesn’t need to be aged. It can reach its full potential in about 5 years.
Take a look at this list to get a better idea about the grapes you can use and age your wine at home accordingly.
- For the bold and berry tasting wine you need Red Rioja to age for about 4 to 10 years.
- World famous Merlot should be aged for 2 to 8 years for its compliant and mellow taste.
- A span of 5 to 10 years works for the spicy yet fruity Red Zinfandel.
- The holy trinity, flowery, thick, and complex, Barolo should be aged from about 5 to 10 years.
If you look carefully, you will find that all these grapes make red wine. That’s because white wines generally don’t need to be aged, especially in oak barrels. Well, except Chardonnay. That one’s special!
Since none of us can turn water into wine, we will have to put in efforts to convert grapes into wine.
When I said the process is simple, I meant it. Grab you used wine barrels and follow these 8 steps that lead to the ultimate joy of enjoying your homemade wine.
- Squeeze your choice of grapes by hand.
- Sanitize all your barrels.
- Fill the crushed grapes into the barrel and keep removing the peels twice every day.
- Make sure that the sugar content and the tartaric acidity is maintained.
- You want to remove the remaining peels from the crush.
- In a container, add yeast and the juice to ferment it.
- Shift it into the barrel and let it age for anywhere between a year to 18 months.
- For the final step, you want to bottle the wine up and let it age horizontally in a dark environment.
The temperature in your storage room will need to be maintained at all times. It will help in slowing down the aging process you get a finer end result. You want to remember to fill up the barrels all the way to the top and keep refilling them every time you notice the level has reduced.
See, the thing with oak barrels is that they are airtight, but they can’t prevent evaporation. Due to the outside heat, the wine may be evaporating, and you need to maintain the quantity of the juice along with its alcohol content.
To control the alcohol content, you pour in a concentrated mixture of vodka. Topping up the used wine barrels may lead to the sugar content reducing. So each time you add extra juice to the mix, you want to add a calculated amount of sugar to it as well.
Oh, and hey, there’s really no particular time that you should age your wine for. Yes, I did mention the number of years related to each kind of grape must be aged for, but if you’re doing all of the work then you should get results YOU like, right?
That’s the beauty of going through a long process. Satisfactory and personalized results!
Keep tasting your wine, time and again so you can end the aging process once you are satisfied with the way it is turning out to be.
Once you start getting used to the process, you may feel like the store bought wine just doesn’t cut it.
If you notice wine cask for sale, I say grab the opportunity to indulge in the fine art that winemaking is. It is a technical process too, of course. But you won’t be able to do it without the support of art.
In the end, I would like to leave you with a piece of advice. If for some reason you lag on keeping a check on the barrels and the wine turns strong, say like brandy, add Bentonite to it. It might not do much for you, maybe ease it out a little.
Too much of an oaky flavor could also be removed or lessened by adding egg whites to the wine.
I certainly hope you enjoyed reading this blog as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Happy wine making to you!
About the Authour:
William Halloran is working as a Marketing Manager at Rocky Mountain Barrel Company. He loves his combination of nature, wine and nerdy friends who appreciate his homemade wines. You may find him either preparing wines in his wine cellar or either hosting a wine party.