Barrel: origin and specificities

07/11/2020 | Uncategorised

This month, I take you to discover the barrel ! In ancient times, amphorae were used to raise wine. It was the Celts who replaced them in the Middle Ages with wooden barrels. Here we will explain their specificities and differences according to the regions.


The origin of the barrel

Well, yes! It was our good old ancestors the Gauls who invented the barrels! What they found is that wood is more practical than amphora, that it does not break and that it transports much better (possibility of stacking them in staggered). The barrel thus becomes the container in which the wine is aged.

As a Bordeaux, I will tell you an anecdote about Bordeaux barrels: the Bordelais tended to revolt against Paris (on many occasions, and especially during the Revolution) and this is how the Bordeaux barrel gave its origin to the term barricade.


Barrel, barrel, lightning, barrel, piece… Which name for which region?

The barrel is a wooden container of varying capacity. It is highly valued for raising wine or brandy. Indeed, it promotes exchanges between wine and oxygen, which makes it possible to obtain more open wines, with aromas of vanilla, "toasted", woody … Wood will also play a role on tannins that will tend to round. From one region to another, its name and capacity will vary.

In Bordeaux, it is the Bordeaux barrel that is used. It contains 225L, is 95cm high and the staves are 20 mm thick.

Also in Bordeaux, we find the barrel which is equivalent to 900 liters and which today serves as a unit of measurement (unit of financial transaction).

Lightning is also found as a unit of measurement. It is a large barrel whose capacity can vary between 10 and 200 hL and more, oak or chestnut. One of its peculiarities is that it has the characteristics of the tanks in addition to those of the barrels. There is a door, a temperature control system…

In Cognac, we use the cognac barrel which contains 350 L.

In Burgundy, we speak of Burgundy barrel, also called " piece ". Its capacity is 228 L. Unlike the Bordeaux barrel, this one is 88 cm high. The staves are thicker: about 27 mm. In Chablis, the traditional barrel was the 132 L leaf.

Finally, in Champagne, the traditional barrel contains 205 L, however we also find the Burgundy barrels.


Regional differences

Each region has its history, and each has different characteristics (size of the cellars, height …). The capacities of the barrels are therefore linked to these historical and characteristic reasons and their use. Nowadays, the two best known barrels are the Burgundy pieces of 228L as well as the Bordeaux barrels of 225L. It is interesting to know that these liters correspond to about 300 bottles each.

By the way, speaking of bottles… The difference between these two regions does not stop at the name or capacity of a barrel. There is also a big difference in the shape of the bottles!

In Bordeaux, the bottles are cubited, it was historically so as to better store them in the boats. While in Burgundy, the bottles are more feminine, with a more aerodynamic shape. This major difference in shape recalls the flexibility of Burgundy wine, femininity and elegance, very fruity, which is opposed to the more robust and robust wines of Bordeaux.

Another difference between Bordeaux and Burgundy barrels: in Bordeaux, they are painted with wine. This gives a harmonious alternation between wood and red. In Burgundy , on the contrary, there are only red spots at the level of the eye of the barrel which corresponds to the tasks when practicing ouillage. These tasks are absorbed by the painted part of the Bordeaux barrel.

See you soon for new news!


READ ALSO from the Bacchus Workshops

The origin of the cannelé

The manufacture of cork stoppers

The different colors of marianne capsules



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