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How do you prepare ahead for topping up your barrels with wine? Do you set aside wine in a carboy to use later in the barrels?

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Dear Wine Wizard, I am a novice home winemaker and have been contemplating making the move from carboy and bottle-aging to barrel-aging some of my reds. It is my understanding that a new barrel can soak up quite a bit of wine when first placed in use. However, my question is what do you do to prepare for this? Do you set aside residual wine, aging in a carboy, and then use this when topping up? Can you give me some insight? Jonathan Clark Charlottesville, Virginia Wine Wizard replies: Indeed, this is one of the classic challenges faced by home winemakers and the reason recipes for the ubiquitous 5-gallon (19-L) batch aren’t always useful. When making wine for a specified storage volume, i.e. the 5-gallon (19-L) carboy (or in your case, the 50-gallon barrel), it’s always best to make the extra bit for “topping up” as you mention. The topping wine can be made in a container that fits the proportional size of what you’re doing. In your case I would suggest making an extra 10 gallons (38 L) in