Wine barrels article

What are wine barrels ?

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There are hundreds and hundreds of things to say about the wine barrel: its primary interest is to store wine to make it age in the very heart of wine cellars, but today we will all discover the secrets and things you can do from it. Indeed, some people go so far as to do restorations, and DIY used to give a little extra to the decor of their cellar!


But where does the barrel of wine come from?

We could say that France, the first country known for its wine, is the country that has developed the barrel of wine. But no ! It goes back much longer than that. We owe our first barrels to the Celts, who developed the barrel around 350 BC.
It was a simple way to preserve wine, but also to transport through Mesopotamia which was at the time, a major commercial axis for a lot of things, be it spices, gold coins, and alcohols of all kinds.
Today, it is less useful, because everything is transported on pallets for large distributors, or in bottles to supply supermarkets or restaurants. The wine barrel is still widely used to mature wine in wine cellars by winegrowers, in order to keep the traditional side.


What is a wine barrel made of?

This is a question that we could ask ourselves, especially in the perspective of starting with the maturation of the wine over several years. Wine barrels are made of Oak for several reasons:

  • Oak is easy to work and flexible: bending it into a curved shape is very easy compared to other woods.
  • It is an abundant wood: widely used by the Romans, it was easy to access, inexpensive to produce.
  • It is waterproof: indeed, not all woods have this capacity to block liquids, on the contrary, they will weaken. So the Oak was perfect for this!

For the record, the Romans stole this idea of using oak for wine barrels directly from the Gauls. The latter stored the beer in it, but the wood being very specific, made the wine softer and lighter, and therefore much more suitable.

How many liters can a barrel of wine contain?

There are a bunch of different barrels, even containers for red wine or white wine. In the case of the classic wine barrel, we can accommodate 250 liters of wine, but the sizes will sometimes vary, and therefore be able to accommodate more or less liquid.
Many use the cask to transport and age wine in large quantities for several years. That said, many winegrowers and cellar owners will prefer the simple bottle, because it is easier to transport and especially to enjoy with friends, family or colleagues. 

Wine opener set


How to restore a wine barrel?

To prepare well for the following topic, on all the possible uses of a wine barrel, we are going to make sure that we are all on the same page, with a new barrel. Don't worry, there's no need to buy one from a wine merchant or specialist, you can also restore the ones or the one you already have. It's going to take a bit of work and DIY skills, but it's definitely possible as long as you have the right tools.
You will need something to remove the ties around the hoops that will unify the wooden planks, something to sand the wood, a wire brush and something to reduce the circumference of the rings: the latter aging for a bunch of years, they have surely lost their shape.


1. Remove the rings

We will start by disassembling the wine barrel by removing the hoops that surround it. On a classic barrel, there will be 6, each one will have 3 attachments. To do this, tap gently with a hammer on each of them, until they go away. Once the top 3 hoops are finished, you can turn the barrel over and repeat the operation.
Be careful, remember to mark each location of each element that you remove or move! It will be much easier to reassemble it later.

2. Sand the wood

Now that everything is ready, and that normally your boards are all separated from each other, you will be able to sand the wood of the wine barrel. For this, do not take too powerful sander: the wood remains relatively fine. We recommend 36 grit paper, it will do the trick.

This action will be long ... very long. Allow 5 to 8 hours to sand the 21 slats that will make up the barrel, if not more (or less, we hope for you!) Depending on the model of the wine barrel.


3. The top and bottom of the barrel

For these two elements, you will have to be careful: a wine barrel has no glue, at least for a classic barrel. It is possible that the boards separate, but the ideal would be to keep them between them to clearly make your job easier.
Start sanding, you can go on an electric sander if necessary, it will be much faster than slats. The hole in the top of the barrel may have changed shape (slightly) over time. You can take the opportunity to round the edges by hand, or at best, with something to make perfect holes.


4. Clean the hoops

Rust may have taken over the rings of your wine barrel. We will have to take the crucial cleaning step. Either way, a classic metal brush will do the trick, at best, use a power tool that will make your job easier.
You can take the opportunity to give a little hammer blows here and there to correct imperfections in the shape of the ring, in order to really have a finished product that looks completely new when assembled again.


5. Assemble the barrel

There, that is the complicated part: if you can, call someone to help you and take the opportunity to collect as many strong pliers as possible, because you will need more than you need :
  •  If the top and bottom of the barrel are at the tops of the slats, keep them aside and add them at the end.
  • If the top and bottom of the barrel are inside the slats, enter the lower part before, then the upper part before assembling the slats.
  • Start by sorting the rings by size
  • Install slats from the smallest, bottom of the barrel, keeping the larger rings around. Think of the pliers or the help of another person, that will make it easier for you.
  • Once each slat is properly installed, reinforce it while hammering the slightly larger hoop with a hammer, once the barrel is upside down.
  • Then add the other rings, gradually going upwards
  • Pull the top of the barrel to install it in its original position, and consolidate the whole by recovering your hammer and fix the last rings.

To simplify everything, start at the bottom, consolidate with the upper hoop, install the top or then go up little by little, while consolidating the top and the bottom.


6. Paint the rings

Being in a classic metal, you can apply any paint as long as it resists over time and is stainless. Opt for a color that revives gray, or you can go for something more original, such as red for example! You can even recall the color of the wine (red wine, white wine, yellow wine) via the hoops.


7. Varnish your barrel

Now it's time for tastes and colors, but you can choose the shade of varnish that suits you best and apply it to all the wood that makes up your wine barrel. Let dry and voilà: you are ready to welcome your best wines in your new wine barrel!


Other uses of the wine barrel

Some people will prefer this wooden barrel for doing more things than just aging their wine. We can give you some ideas here, some are rather original, others, you probably already know them!
  • A bar table: many already do this, but if your barrel is relatively high, it can become a great counter!
  • A flower pot outside to accommodate as many colors as possible in the garden
  • Cut in half, lengthwise, some people turn it into a small wine cellar
  • In length, always, it can become a very original chest.
  • For the width this time, you can make it a doghouse and keep the other part for a stool.
  • Simply add locks to the lid, and you have a very original trash can
Either way, we hope you have learned a lot more than when you first got to wine barrels: you know where it came from, how to maintain it, restore it, and use it wisely! If you plan to restore it soon, consider hanging a small clip on the side or top, to accommodate your best corkscrew, ready to use to taste the best wines!

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