Babette is a character from “Sketching with Sterling” on WCTV. Photo by Sterling Haynes

Wanda Haynes,

Certified Sommelier

Wine Barrels 

After the trees are chopped down its time to make the staves.

Staves are the curved pieces of wood used to make a wine barrel.

Wine barrel staves are stacked outdoors on pallets to dry for two or more years.

Every wine barrel has 32 staves carefully arranged in a specific pattern. Each stave varies slightly in width, and it must be performed by a professional.

A person that makes wooden barrels for wine are referred to as “coopers”.

Cooperage is the art of barrel making and is a highly specialized talent. 

The cooper also uses hoops made of steel and aluminum to produce the wine barrels.

These hoops encircle the barrel for stability and longevity.

What is toasting? 

After a barrel is built then the inside is exposed to fire and referred to as “toasting”.

This is achieved by using open flames or by using a hand-held torch.

The degrees of toasting range from light to heavy and each level determines tastes.

Light Toasting – vanilla, coconut, caramel, clove, and cinnamon.

Medium Toasting – vanilla, honey, caramel, toast, coffee, and cocoa.

Heavy Toasting – vanilla, espresso, smoke, butterscotch, toffee, and molasses.

How long is the life of a wine barrel?

New barrels will generally continue to give flavor for 4-5 years after which they can become “neutral” and no longer impart much tannin or flavor into the wine.

Some cheaply made wines use wood chips from chopped up staves and wood pulp to give the illusion of the wine being oaked in a barrel.

Babette is a character from “Sketching with Sterling” on WCTV. Click here to view episodes on WCTV in Wadsworth, Ohio.

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