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Oak Barrel Aging Advice


Larry White — Austin, Texas asks,

I have a medium toast 20-gallon (76-L) American oak barrel and I just put wine in it three weeks ago. How often should I check it to top off, taste, and measure free SO2? Also, how long can I expect to keep the wine in there (this is a brand new barrel)?

Hi Larry, congrats on your new piece of equipment! I’m sure you’ll find it adds to the kinds of wine you can make. Since you just filled your barrel and it’s brand new, you might want to open the bung and check the wine level now, since it’s been three weeks. Sometimes new barrels are slightly dry and, even if you soaked it with hot water before filling, can sometimes “drink” a little of your wine as they saturate over time. Be sure to completely top up the barrel at this time.  You can certainly check in on the taste as well after three weeks, but it’d maybe be a bit of a waste of wine at this stage, because three weeks isn’t nearly enough to really move the needle on flavor or aroma development.  How long to leave it in the new barrel? Since I don’t know what kind of wine you have or what kind of style you’re shooting for, check out these guidelines, but note that these are for commercial-sized 59-gal. (225-L) barrels. Smaller barrels have more
Response by Alison Crowe.