Ask Wine Wizard

Steps To Preserve Your Oak Barrel


Gates Legault — Sudbury, Ontario asks,

Good day! I was not able to find how to preserve an oak barrel after its use. I have done four wine batches in it and now I feel that it’s not giving me the same effect as for taste. I would like to save the barrel and place it in my wine cellar, just do not want it to crack. Anything you can suggest?

Well, the first thing I always say is, “A full barrel is a happy barrel.” That means that the barrel is best stored with wine in it! The acidity of the wine (generally reds tend to be a pH of 3.5–3.8-ish) keeps spoilage microbes at bay and of course the wetness of the wine keeps the wood nice and swollen. For those times when we can’t keep our barrels full of wine, however, we do need to have a backup plan. This is where a good barrel storage solution comes in. Basically, what you’re going to do is fill your barrel with an acidulated sulfur dioxide solution, which mimics the above salubrious effects — don’t attempt to drink it, however! Here’s the recipe to keep one barrel: -180 g of citric acid-160 g of potassium metabisulfite (KMBS) powder-Enough water to fill the barrel Procedure: Fill your barrel about halfway with water. If possible, use a carbon-block filter to remove the chlorine from the water, as chlorine can contribute to TCA, or the “corked” aroma defect, which could infiltrate your barrel.
Response by Alison Crowe.