Winemakers’ willingness to accept the steep cost of barrel aging demonstrates the importance of wood to wine. A French barrel can cost upwards of $900 (Canadian) — while a barrel from Eastern Europe can fetch $600. An average barrel contains a little over 300 bottles of wine. If only used once, aging in a French barrel would add a minimum cost of $3.00 per bottle. Moreover, this expense cannot be reduced through continual re-use. The life of a wine barrel is finite: after three uses it has little or no impact on wine
Given the cost, efforts are made to prolong the life of a barrel. Some insert toasted staves to create a new lining. Others shave the interior wall and re-toast the barrel. These techniques, however, are not common practice: older barrels are used for storage or barrel fermenting.
Here in the County we are blessed to have our own cooper (barrel-maker). In 2011, Pete Bradford built over 200 barrels from local wood. Rosehall Run, to name but one local winery, has aged wine in Carriage House Cooperage barrels. Currently Pete is aging wood for construction of barrels in the future. And he has found new uses for discarded barrels, creating unique pieces from barrel staves for fences to wonderful pieces of functional furniture. All these items are on display at his new location on 46 Gilead Rd, just beside the 66 Gilead Distillery.
Without Pete’s creativity, used barrels generally end up as planters on decks or patios. The next time you see a half-barrel planted with hibiscus or geranium, imagine were it came from!
Next week we talk about the cork oak, alias Quercus Suber.
This week I tasted the 2010 Casa-Dea Chardonnay ($15.95), which also sports their new elegant label.
The color is washed straw with notes of white flower, peach and almond. Enjoy the full bright mouthful of citrus with flavors of toasted walnuts, flowing to finish of tart flinty lemon curd. The pronounced acidity makes this wine an ideal match for food.
Winemaker Paul Battilana creates this wine from County grown fruit. It is available at the winery located at 1186 Greer Rd., just west of Hillier.
Wines of the County is featured every week in The Times and on the East & Main Bistro website.