How Wine Barrels are Made | Cooperage Oak Barrel Making & Barrel Toasting Demonstration

By Brian Lemay 26 comments

In order to ensure that we’re getting
the best oak we really can for Jordan wines, Rob Davis actually travels to
France and visits the forest and attends the the auctions where the logs are
actually auctioned off. And, he bids for logs and then has one of our Cooper’s
create barrels from the logs that he’s purchased. And, we tend to source from
eight to nine different cooperages. One of the reasons is, it gives us a
variety of flavors that lends to complexity in the wine. But, also, we tend
to embrace the cooperages that utilize old world techniques and have
been at it for a while. And, they tend to give us, year in and year out, what we’re
looking for. When I get the message that the Nadalie cooperage in Calistoga is
producing our barrels, I like to go over and actually observe the production of
our barrels. Kind of get an idea of the the continuity, of quality of
construction, and the consistency of the toast levels. And, just really get an idea
of what to expect when the barrels arrive several weeks later. Before the
wood can be constructed into a barrel, it’s essential that it is seasoned for
two to three years before it meets the cooperage. One of the reasons is that
that helps to leach out some of the more raw and recognizably woody flavors. But,
also, allows microbes to access to the early wood or the grain. And, what that
does is then allow the wine to seep in there and extract those most delicious
extra tips that we like; the vanillin and so forth. Once the seasoning is done, the
start of construction of a barrel is that the staves are joined and planed.
Then, they are assembled by the Master Cooper which is called raising the
barrel. Where the staves are actually held by hand into a hoop and the form of
the barrel is constructed. As he adds a stave, up to about 30 staves plus or
minus, every barrel is different. But, using a pattern of thick, thin, medium,
thick, thin, medium so that the stresses are dispersed equally around. Once the
barrel is raised, it’s actually in the shape of a flower where there’s a circle
on one end and all the stave tips are pointing out towards the other like
petals. The flower petals are then formed with with a cable drawn in to form the
other end of the barrel. Now, the barrel is symmetrical on both
ends. Then the hoops are added. That’s the time that the barrel is then toasted. At Nadalie, toasted right over an oak wood fire. There are many methods of
toasting. We happen to like the oak fire. It seems to be it slow and purposeful
and penetrate the wood in such a way that it develops the flavors we want
rather than degrading them or creating over toasty flavors – caramelization and
so forth – flavors that might obscure our fruit. Once the barrel is toasted, it can
be rolled out, the bunghole drilled, and the head started to be shaped and formed.
Each barrel is ever so slightly different. So, the head has to be formed
for that particular barrel. Once the barrel is is complete, the heads are
fitted and so forth its sanded and then brought over to the QC Department. It
needs to pass test one. Test one: does it hold liquid? And with the wood being a
natural product, not all of them do right away and sometimes they need patching.
And, that that process, basically, is pressurizing the barrel with a little
bit of warm water in it, looking for the leaks, and then doing an another master
Cooper’s job which is patching grain leaks. Once the QC is effectively
finished at the cooperage that’s when my quality control part starts. As the
barrels arrive here, we check them just initially for the consistency of toast
level but, also, check them again for their water tightness. Amazingly though,
a barrel can be water tight and not wine tight because the wine is less
dense than water. One thing that people don’t really realize is that the barrels
really do soak up a significant amount of wine; about six bottles worth. And so,
one of the things that we noticed is that the very first fill gives a lot of
the toasty and new barrel and a lot more barrel impact components. The second
fill is really my favorite where it delivers more of the vanillin and and to
me the most delicious and well balanced flavors. Then the third fill, what we use
so that we don’t have too much oak flavor. We still want to have the entire
vintage barrel aged. But, the the third fill is what we call a neutral fill. And,
we use that for evaluating vineyard box and so forth. But, it also just allows the
wine that against a barrel-aging without over-oaking.


Andy Cigars

Aug 8, 2011, 5:26 pm Reply

Excellent video, thanks for posting. Where do your barrels typically go after you are done with them? Are they ever used for wine or another alcoholic beverage production?

Jordan Vineyard & Winery

Sep 9, 2011, 8:59 pm Reply

@unclebud99 Thanks for your comment. Glad you enjoyed the video. We do sell our used barrels to other wineries once they've finished their third year in the Jordan program.


Feb 2, 2012, 8:36 am Reply

Now for the fun part. I need to buy 4 of these barrels. Just I don't know where I will be doing that at.

Jordan Vineyard & Winery

Feb 2, 2012, 11:21 pm Reply

@TheRebelEye Used barrels are typically sold by wineries in the winter, around February. Sometimes they post for sale classifieds at winebusiness-dot-com. Try there! Thanks for watching.

Jordan Vineyard & Winery

Feb 2, 2012, 10:41 pm Reply

@TravisVadon The benefit of oak barrel ageing adds complexity, a soft palate feel and a longer finish compared to a wine aged in stainless steel with oak additives. Simply adding oak to stainless steel produces strong astringent tannins. For our winemaking style, we handcraft each vintage based upon the fruit and we customize our barrel program to bring out the wonderful fruit flavors each harvest provides.

VinoEnology Com

Feb 2, 2012, 8:06 am Reply

Great info, thanks for sharing. Noting yet can replace how the wine is aged in barrel!


May 5, 2012, 12:50 am Reply

those sessile oaks are like 300 years old each. what are ja gonna do when there's no more left

Joci Schnel

May 5, 2012, 9:37 pm Reply

Szépségét veszíti a régi szakma. Akik ezeket a hordókat készítik, nem tűnnek boldognak! Szomorú hordók ezek! Nem mindenhol hasznos az ipari gondolkodásmód.


Nov 11, 2012, 5:53 am Reply

Thanks for uploading. Go French Oak.. Go Cab Sauv.. Cheers!

vanessa young

Jan 1, 2013, 9:48 pm Reply

if it could be done simpler and cheaper and get the same results, it would be, so no.


May 5, 2013, 12:57 pm Reply


frank wiebe

Jun 6, 2013, 5:05 am Reply

are the Barrels also from oak wood


Jun 6, 2013, 12:47 am Reply

fucking barrels

Jordan Vineyard & Winery

Aug 8, 2013, 3:55 pm Reply

Thanks so much! We recommend "The Business of Wine: Industry Insiders On The Production & Delivery Of A Premium Product From Vine To Table" and "Windows on the World wine course" by Kevin Zraly

Anders Jener

Jan 1, 2016, 1:30 am Reply

Great to see that woodprix has new instructions to save my money and energy to build it.

Danky Darko

Sep 9, 2016, 6:36 pm Reply

Bunghole drilled, nobody? I'll stop

Garzon Laperle

Jul 7, 2018, 8:59 am Reply

I made it about three weeks ago. On woodprix website I learned a lot about it. Check it mates.


Aug 8, 2018, 4:30 am Reply

Studying for WSET Diploma. This was a great video to help visualise some of the learnings from the books. Thanks!


Mar 3, 2019, 12:24 am Reply

Why tf did I click on this. Wtf.

jianbin wang

Mar 3, 2019, 2:03 am Reply

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Sophia Low

Jul 7, 2019, 10:20 pm Reply

I am pretty sure you can still buy handbook with all details you need on woodprix.

Deepak Farswan

Jul 7, 2019, 11:39 pm Reply

How day know. How day make hair

jianbin wang

Jul 7, 2019, 1:40 am Reply ,East asia crafts limited is best oak barrel manufacturer , welcome to inquiry

Matko Lendler

Nov 11, 2019, 9:49 pm Reply

Does anyone know would a barrell stay strong and not fall apart if one of the bottoms is completely cut out to make a big pot for a plant for example? Thanks 🙂

jianbin wang

Dec 12, 2019, 3:06 am Reply

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jianbin wang

Dec 12, 2019, 3:06 am Reply

East Asia Crafts Limited is best and professional china oak barrel manufacturer , china decoration barrel factory Web: Email : [email protected]

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