It was a great growing year for grapes, and the economy is coming back….so I should have known that everyone would have bumper crops and a barrel would be very difficult to come by.
First…why a barrel? It has to hold wine, breath and impart slight oak flavors. Most winemakers use about 30% new oak and then the rest 1 and 2 year old oak barrels. The older the barrel the more “neutral” it will be and won’t impart a lot of taste. So, with only a little over a barrel, I was looking for a 1 or 2 year old barrel. I called and visited about 30 wineries and custom crush facilities in the area, called Washington, Oregon, Colorado and even Canada. No used barrels. In the picture below my friend and winemaker John Mason tried to get some 2002 barrels to hold water but to no avail.
So, the same company that made my fermentation tank makes a plastic breathable barrel replacement. All you have to do is add oak staves (pieces) and they claim it is almost the same as a barrel with the added benefit of being able to clean it much easier, it can be sealed an pressurized with nitrogen and it has a sample port. So…necessity is the mother of invention.