Tue 07 Apr 2015

Rolling Out The Barrel in Ribera

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The humble oak barrel has been with us for centuries, peacefully protecting and preserving various liquids.

During my recent visit to Ribera del Duero, I witnessed first hand how ageing in oak barrels can complement the taste of a wine and, by chance, visited a bodega where they had a cooperage on site, allowing an anorak like myself to witness the birth of a 500-litre barrel.

After sourcing the oak, the cut wood is left to its own devices and exposed to the elements for two years to season the wood. During this time the undesirable bitter tannins leech out and dissipate. The wood is then covered for a further year to stabilise, ready to be made into a barrel.

Oak seasoning in the sun

Oak seasoning in the sun

Oak in Ribera del Duero

As we approached the cooperage I could feel heat emanating out and the aroma drifting from this area had the unmistakable (and rather soothing) sweet smell of smoke.

The planks are then cut to shape to make the 28 staves that make up a barrel. They need to be accurate so they fit together perfectly: no adhesive is used and the barrel needs to be water tight!

Oak in Ribera del Duero

Ready to made into barrels

Ready to made into barrels.

Once rings are attached to one end of the barrel, it is then either heated with steam . This softens the wood ahead of bending into shape, or (as is more common in winemaking) toasted to release flavour.

Toasting time!

Toasting time!

Old oak chips in burners provide the means for this, the level of toasting dependant on what the winemaker wants for their wine.

Oak in Ribera del Duero

Oak in Ribera del Duero

Oak in Ribera del Duero

Having then been sprayed with the water to soften the wood, the barrel is slowly coaxed into shape and the final ring is persuaded on.

Oak in Ribera del Duero

Time to roll out the barrel… and fill it!

Oak in Ribera del Duero

Conrad Braganza
The Cellar Showroom

Categories : Spain

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