We are often asked how the coopers recommend to prepare new barrels for use. What follows is their recommended procedure.
Preparing New Barrels:
- Fill the barrel with 20 liters of warm to hot water (26°C to 50°C) and bung the barrel. Note: the warmer the water, the easier to achieve a vacuum, which will tell you if there are any leaks. However, be aware that this will extract more wood flavor from the barrel.
- Turn the barrel on its side, roll it in order to completely wet the inside surface of the barrel, then stand it on end. If you want the top head to swell faster, you can fill the top head area with water while letting the inside soak.
- After 10–20 minutes turn the barrel again, so that it is once more standing upright but on the other head.
- Wait another 10–20 minutes, then pull the bung to see if a vacuum was achieved (you will hear a sucking sound). If no vacuum, check the barrel surfaces for water spots to see if the barrel is free of leaks. If some leakage is apparent, repeat steps 1 through 4, but extend the soak time. If there are no apparent leaks, proceed to fill the barrels with juice or wine. If you encounter any problems, please contact our office as the barrels have a one year warranty.
You may fill the barrels with water for a couple of days if you prefer to extract minimal, initial wood tannins (only recommended for "clean," finished wine.)
Storing Wine Barrels Indefinitely:
If the unused wine barrels are to be stored for an indefinite period of time, keep the plastic film on the barrels to prevent them from getting dried out. When you are ready to use the barrels follow the above steps.
If the soaking period is longer than a couple of days, you can always add SO2 and citric acid to keep the water fresh.