PATRONS: Did you know we've a chat function for you now? Look to the bottom of the screen, you can chat, set up rooms, talk to each other individually or in groups! Click 'Chat' at the right side of the chat window to open the chat up.
Love Gotmead and want to see it grow? Then consider supporting the site and becoming a Patron! If you're logged in, click on your username to the right of the menu to see how as little as $30/year can get you access to the patron areas and the patron Facebook group and to support Gotmead!
We now have a Patron-exclusive Facebook group! Patrons my join at The Gotmead Patron Group. You MUST answer the questions, providing your Patron membership, when you request to join so I can verify your Patron membership. If the questions aren't answered, the request will be turned down.
Barrels are high maintenance. Once you fill them, you can't let them stay empty for any long periods of time. If you're not using it, you have to keep it filled with water, or water and vodka to prevent bacterial growth. I forgot the proper way of sanitizing them, but it has something to do with sulphur candles, or something. And don't you have to shave the insides down every now and then?
Even if only a couple of these are true, I'll stick with wood chips.
We've had a couple of oak barrels in the family for a long time and while there is maintenance involved, it is not really as bad as it is made out to be.
You do need to keep them full when you're not using them, you use sulfur sticks to sanitize them, and from time to time (over the course of several years) you do need to have them treated by a good cooper.
The effect of oak on wine is indisputable, and based on my experience with mead the same seems to be true. Making a batch large enough to fill a barrel is challenging for many people, but I'm sure the pay off is worth it.
Maintaining a barrel is really no more difficult than maintaining several carboys, it's a matter of following very simple steps of cleaning, sanitizing, filling, storing and tapping the barrel. It does require a bit more skill and experience to keep the barrels in good order, but it is nothing that a good brewer cannot do with a minimal of effort.
Yes, I use Oak cubes all the time. They are very convinient. We use the oak barrels for the wine my dad and I make. They've been in the family for a long time so they're kind of like heirlooms. It's kind of our way of honoring and paying tribute to my Grandpa and "Uncles" who got us started on winemaking and beer brewing. The influence of the wood on the wine is incredible and very much increases the structure and complexity of the wine.
I haven't used the oak barrels for the mead, and probably never will because they are conditioned for red wine. Once I do get one for mead, I'll be making a big batch to fill the barrel.
Oak chips are great, I do like the cubes better (just personal taste). We have also used oak chips in winemaking, and the effect on the wine is not as profound as is the aging in barrels, which is why I want to get a barrel for my meads.
Here's the Marabella Vineyards information that I promised to post. Sorry for the delay, I got busy and had to re-prioritize my schedule.
344 West 8th Street
San Pedro, CA 90731
Wine and beer supplies, grape juice & wine grapes, crushers, presses, oak barrels, etc. It's a great Mom and Pop shop in San Pedro, California. They're Italian and their family has been making wine for several generations, most recently here in California.
These are the kinds of places that I like to patronize because it is the small family run kind of place. They're a cash or check only operation. Here's a good example of how they work. When I bought my wine-grape juice to make wine from them, they undercharged me by $16. Terese called me up and apologized for bothering me and let me know that they had undercharged me. She said it was fine to either bring it by the next time I was in the area. I told her I could mail it, and she said that was OK too, but there was no rush.
It's a great thing to have people like this still in the business.
I don't know...and I mean that literally - I don't know.
I have access to great barrels that have been used by local Napa wineries. These are barrels that had four months of use since new, and the wineries consider them shot - of no further value.
Most good wineries use new oak for about four months, and then move the wine to older barrels for extended aging. This blends out the roughness of the new oak. But the point is they don't do even this treatment more than once with a barrel because they say the oak is gone. Sure, maybe if you really let something sit in it for a very long time it will still take on oak, but repeatedly? Not according to the various Napa winemakers I've talked with. Tomorrow I leave for a forty winery tasting, and I'll be meeting with various of the winemasters and inquire on this.
We've had a couple of barrels in the family for a while and maintaining them is fairly simple. We had them re-conditioned and we use the reconditioned ones as nuetral storage for wine. Although now that my parent's and aunts and uncles are older we're not making the volume of wine that we used to.
Re-conditioning of barrels is fine, but it's definately not anywhere near putting a barrel back to it's original state, and infusion potential of those oak characteristics into your mead/wine. In California we have the great luxury of being around so many wineries that there are a pretty good supply of low cost barrels that have been used in aging everything from Auslese to Zinfandel and the price is right.
Many barrel manufacturers recommend using barrels for a maximum of 5 years. During the first 2 years, barrels infuse large quantities of aromatic compounds into your wines/meads, vanilla, eugenol, and methyloctalactones, adding spicy and vanilla nuances.
During the next 3 years, the barrels still offer a good capacity for aerating the mead/wine but most of the aromatic compounds have been used up. From what I've read when a small barrel is over 5 years old, it no longer makes a helpful contribution to the wine during aging (sedimentation, heat convection, etc) and the very importantly the oxidation process may be blocked by tartrate deposits.
Oscaar, what's your opinion on these? How long do you think a 5 gallon version of this would remain useful in oaking the mead, seeing as how the surface to oak ration would be different than a large 55 gallon barrel.
Reading the description at morebeer.com it seems that they might use the recoop.net barrels linked above. Process description is the same. The barrels at recoop.net says free shipping in the cont. US, cost is $25 more at recoop.net but the free shipping might more than make up for it, plus they offer one additional level of toast (medium minus).
Well the smaller the barrel the less time you should leave your mead in it. If it was me, I'd save up and get a new barrel, French Oak (Limousin or Nevers), Medium toast by a good barrel maker. They're not cheap, but they're well worth it.
Also there is a debate about reconditioned barrels regarding retoasting. Many coopers believe that retoasting does not give satisfactory results. In a 50 gallon barrel there are about a gallon and a half of wine adsorbed by the staves that comprise the barrel. Apparently in that 1.5 gallons of adsorbed wine there are substances (tannin, tartaric acid, etc) that when retoasted are converted into compounds that give the wine tarry and burnt rubber odors, commonly referred to as "burnt character."
So that's why I would go for a used barrel before a re-conditioned barrel.
Interesting. Glad I asked you. Ok, I will think about getting a new barrel instead. Morebeer carries new french barrels for about $50 more, but I didn't really consider it because I would rather have American judging by what I've read.
Anybody know where I can buy new, 5 gallon, American oak barrels?
If y'all are looking for large barrells, don't forget that Scott Pirtle at Pirtle Winery has some, and for a pretty good price. Had I not flown out there a couple weeks ago, I would have gotten one. I think that the airlines woulda had a cow if I'd tried to check a barrel tho!
Vicky - finishing the last touches on the pool supply site from Hell, and doing interesting things on the new Redstone meadery site....