Time To Retire
Often, during a tour of the winery, when people see the barrels, someone invariably asks “how long do you use your barrels?” and “what do you do with the barrels when they are old?” Here goes a people/barrel comparison- yes really. Barrels essentially come from oak trees and though the skillful guidance of the cooperage house are formed and made ready to enter the work force (if you want more on the developmental and birthing process of a barrel, I did a post on that about a year ago). Once the young barrels are ready, they are sold to wineries for labor (thank goodness that part has been abolished in humans!)
A line of fresh new recruits.
At Naggiar, we typically use our barrels for 4-5 years. We never use more than 30% new oak in any of our wines which means the remaining percentage is either 2, 3, 4, or 5 years old. As barrels age, they tend to lose any oak flavors or aromas and more importantly, they tend to lose their tannins and sugars. From a microbial side, as the barrel gets older, they tend to carry more and more microbes- typically the undesirable kind. Through these microbes and just plain old time, the barrels start to impart more VA (vinegar flavor) and a musty character (contributed by the yeast Brettanomyces or simply old oak).
No matter how well you take care of your barrels, they eventually go south. There is a way to extend the life of a barrel- there are companies out there that either freeze or re-shave the inside few millimeters of the barrel and then toast, but this tends to produce only mediocre results. Sometimes, you just need to retire.
What five years in the wine industry will do to you.
So, what do our barrels do in retirement? We sell them at the winery, Root 49 club members get first dibs, and from there, the sky’s the limit!
Some take up gardening
Some work in tasting rooms
Some sit in bars all day
Some do dog sitting
Some are content to watch time go by
As for the case at our house, we chop them up, then burn them to make some excellent smoked meats and barbecue.
What creative things have you done with retired barrels?[jetpack_subscription_form]