Wine barrels aren’t just for maturing wine anymore.
They’re planters, they’re ornaments, they’re tables. At St Anne’s, we have wine barrels for sale that fill all of those purposes. But, being the winemakers we are, we’re inclined to give you a little history and background of these marvellous containers before you buy one. Even if you are just going to stick a bunch of dirt and seeds in it!
A real wine barrel– like those we sell online and at our cellar doors– is made of oak. Oak is the material of choice: there really is no other wood that matches up. It is the perfect mix of watertight and porous. Some winemakers have experimented with woods like chestnut and acacia. However, chestnut barrels are too porous and must be coated internally with paraffin to be effective. This coating neutralises their ability to impart the wood’s flavours. Really, the marriage of oak and wine stands up to any rivalry.
The two kinds of oak most commonly used are American Oak, and French Oak. The difference between these two is in the flavours they impart on the wine.
American Oak is noted for the strength of its flavour and even the sweetness of some of its tones. It is variously described as having “soda” or “vanilla” notes. French Oak is gentler – more subtle: silky smooth. Whilst still being complex. French Oak has a higher profile, and tends to attract higher price tags for winemaking – American Oak is more common when making bourbon. We like to use it for our Bluegrass Tawny, which adds that bourbon flavour whilst preserving its lively fruit tones. Even if it comes off short to French Oak with most wines, we still think it’s a pretty sensational timber.
It’s easy to understand the value we put in our barrels when you realise that most oak trees are around a century old before they are harvested. After those hundred or so years are up, however, they don’t get one hundred more– at least in the world of barrel-ageing.
Once they’ve been used a few times (i.e. matured several vintages), they start to lose their ability to transfer those coveted flavours. After that, we don’t mind if you use them for planters… But they still make excellent decanters – it’s just that the oak flavours won’t be as readily transferred. So, if you have a wine that has already been barrel-aged to near perfection, you don’t have to worry!
We have a beautiful range of wine barrels for sale online and at our cellar doors: you just have to come and visit to take a look! Our Myrniong cellar door is just 50 minutes away for Melbourne folk, and even closer for those in Ballarat! We’ve also got cellar doors in Lorne, Moama, and Echuca.