Ryan Kemp - Assistant Winemaker
March 14, 2023 | Ryan Kemp - Assistant Winemaker

Life Cycle of a Wine Barrel

At Adelaida, the use of barrels for wine production is a crucial part of the winemaking process. Barrels, old and new, can affect the taste, texture, and overall quality of the wine. 650 barrels are currently being used for aging or fermentation, while others sit empty, waiting for the next harvest.

Let us take you through the lifecycle of just one of these barrels.

The first step is sourcing the wood. Adelaida sources our oak from various regions in France. These oak trees are selected and cut down for their quality, height, age, and other factors. Those trees are then cut into staves (pieces of wood that make up the barrel) and set outside to season for years until the moisture content is deemed acceptable by the cooperage. One tree can only produce about three barrels.

In step two, the cooperage selects the dry staves, shapes them, and assembles them. The coopers then toast the barrels which range from light to heavy toast. Selecting barrels for our winemaking needs is dictated by toast levels and the shaping process. Once the barrels are crafted, they are shipped across the Atlantic to the winery. Upon arrival, barrels are inspected for imperfections. We then place a code on the head of the barrel and a white placard below the code for tracking and inventory management. Until harvest, these barrels are stored in our temperature and humidity-controlled barrel room. 

The next step is filling the barrel. The winemaking team uses a mix of new and used barrels, but for this purpose let's say we are filling a new barrel with 2022 Viking Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon from block six… Yum! Once this barrel is filled with wine, a batch ID is written on the white placard on the head of the barrel. Since we have filled our new barrel with Cabernet Sauvignon, it will be placed in our barrel room and aged for 20 months before the wine is moved into the tank to be blended for bottling. Once the barrel is empty, it is washed, steamed, air-dried, filled with sulfur dioxide gas for protection, and placed back in the barrel room. 

Fast forward to next year's harvest in October 2024... the winemaking team selects this barrel again and fills it with Cabernet Sauvignon. This time around, the barrel is considered used but still will impart some flavors and aromas.  Upon the third use, the winemaking team deems the barrel neutral, meaning it will not impart any flavors or aromas. It is our practice to keep wine barrels for up to seven years and use them as much as possible.  After seven years, our barrels are sold to a third-party company that will give them a new life as a chair, table, or garden planter!


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