How to check the quality of a used wine barrel?

Verification of origin and history

The first step towards an informed purchase of a used barrel is to know the name of the cooperage that made it, the type and its history. This includes its age, the type of wine it previously contained, the number of months it has been used, the date it was emptied, and the washing process. These pieces of information are crucial because they directly affect the remaining aromatic potential and freshness at the time of the purchase! For sanitary and structure reasons, it is preferable that the barrel has been freshly emptied, washed and re-bunged before shipment.

Visual and olfactory inspection of the barrel

A thorough visual inspection enables to detect potential structural defect signs of contamination. Look for damaged staves or loose hoops that could compromise the barrel’s integrity.

Olfaction is also a valuable tool : the barrel should be free of musty, moldy, or vinegar-like odors, which are signs of potential bacterial contamination.

Inspection of storage area

The inspection of the cellar or storage building, where secondhand barrels are kept is also important.

The controlled temperature and humidity conditions of the building should be considered, as this limits the risk of leaks due to the barrel drying out. Finally the presence of odors in the storage or aging location should be taken into account to ensure that the aromatic profile of the wines is not altered.

Assessment of the inside conditions

The inside of the barrel can also be inspected to check its cleanliness and the washing process. Check for any signs of mold or tartrate deposits.

Microbiological analysis

In some cases, it is beneficial to request a microbiological analysis to confirm the absence of yeasts such as Brettanomyces, or halogenated compounds (HA and HP).

By conducting a thorough check of the history, physical and olfactory condition, and cleanliness of the barrel, winemakers can ensure they acquire a barrel that will enhance their wines without compromising the quality. Thanks to its expertise service, Reoaked can provide a precise report on all these criteria, ensuring the quality of the barrels exchanged via the platform.