Originally made out of palm wood, barrels have been utilized in the wine making process for close to three thousand years.  In some of the earliest known recordings of history, wine was traditionally stored and transported in amphoras.  Amphoras are vase-shaped ceramic containers that are easily recognized by their two handles and long neck that is usually more narrow that the body of the vessel.

After amphoras, it is thought that the first wooden barrels were made from palm wood.  Greek historians recorded the Mesopotamians as utilizing palm barrels to transport their wine up and down the Euphrates.  Due the difficulty of shaping palm wood into barrels, a different type of wood had to be sought out.

Oak has been in use in the wine industry for over two thousand years.  Soon, after it was introduced, oak was found to have more benefits than just simple storage.  Oak was found to impart specific characteristics upon the wine being aged, much to the delight of winemakers.  Today, oak from all over the world (American, French & Hungarian) is being used in the wine making process.  Whiskey barrels, made from oak and first used to age whiskey, Stainless Steel Wine Tanks, Aluminum barrels, and plastic barrels are also used to store and age wine.

How Barrels Are Made

Barrels are built by Coopers.  They are convex in shape, and have a bulge at the middle. This bulge creates a container with more of a spherical shape making it much easier to roll on its side, changing directions with little friction.   The wide middle also helps to distribute stress evenly so that the barrel can withstand stacking and transport.

The rings around the outside of the barrel are called “hoops” and are responsible for helping to hole the barrel together.  In the past both wood and metal were used to make hoops but today most hoops are made of metal (steel or galvanized iron). Each barrel has four distinct types of hoops.  The hoops towards the extremes of the barrel are called head hoop (bottom) and chime hoop (top).  Hoops closest to the bilge (bulging center) are called bilge hoops.  Lastly, there is the hoop that is placed between the bilge and head or chime hoop.  It is called a quarter hoop.  The stopper used to seal the hole in a barrel is called the bung and usually made of silicone.


About americanwinegrape

American Wine Grape Distributors Inc. AKA A. Silvestro Wine Grape, has been in business for over 5 decades. We are wine enthusiasts just like you and want to share in that enjoyment. This is why we are developing a new and exciting platform for growers, restaurants, sommeliers and home winemakers. Our goal is to bring the wine community together and is the driving force behind our new blog.

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