Building wood barrels and using them for transporting and/or ageing wine is a very old European tradition.
Wine Barrel History in a Minute
Ancient Egyptians and Romans were using clay amphorae rather than wooden containers. But those were fragile and unpractical.
When the Romans conquered the Gaul (present-day France) just before 100 BC, they noticed the locals transporting beer in wood barrels so they started applying the idea to the transportation of their beloved wine.
Wooden wine barrels were easier to handle, harder to break than amphorae.
Who likes to spill his wine ?!?
It was later discovered than beyond the practical aspect of wooden barrels for transportation, the wood, oak preferably also gives positive characteristics to wines.
This is why today many wines are aged in oak barrels.
Oak barrels are composed of quite a few parts, each of which has a specific name.
Assembling a wine barrel is the art of the cooper.
A cooper’s workshop is called a cooperage.
If you want to pretend you know your wine, you have to know your wine barrel.
This is why we’ve gather for you below an infographic including the specific vocabulary used to describe the various components/parts of a wine barrel. The same vocabulary applies to Bourbon Whiskey barrels.
Find below the infographic the list of arts’ names and their definition, as well as the various capacities of different regional wine barrel types.
Parts of a Wine Barrel – Vocabulary:
- Head: flat circular top and bottom of the barrel. It is generally stamped with the cooper’s badge and sometimes the winery’s logo(s)
- Chime: beveled edge of the barrel made up of the ends of the staves
- Stave: one of the narrow strips of wood or plank that form the sides of a barrel
- Hoops: metal parts around the barrel that hold the staves together (includes head or chime hoop, quarter hoop, French hoop, and binge hoop)
- Bilge: the widest part of the barrel
- Bung hole: hole in one of the barrel’s staves used to fill up and empty the barrels
- Bung: wooden (traditional) or silicone (modern) stopper used to close hermetically the bung hole
Translations: Wine Barrel = Barrique = Barricas
Barrels are called barriques by the French but also the Italians and Germans that have borrowed the term from France.
Barricas is the Spanish word.
Standard Wine Barrel Sizes – What is the capacity of a wine barrel?
Because the copper’s tradition of building wine barrels is ancient, different regions had slightly different barrel capacities, as follows:
|Demi-Barrique (Half-Barrel)||112L – 30 US Gallons|
|Bordelaise (Bordeaux)||225L – 59.4 US Gallons|
|Bourguigone (Burgundy)||228L – 60 US Gallons|
|Cognac Barrel||300L – 79 US Gallons|
|American Oak Hogshead||300L – 79 US Gallons|
|Puncheon||500L – 132 US Gallons|
|Demi-Muid||600L – 158.5 USGallons|
|Foudre (technically not a barrel)||2K-12KL – 500-32K US Gallons|
For winemaking, the Bordelaise and the Bourguigone barrel sizes have been by far the most common sizes, although many producers opt for larger types (puncheons and demi-muids) for a lesser influence of the oak on the wines.
Weight & Dimensions of a Wine Barrel
|Capacity||Standard Bordeaux Chateau 225L (60 US Gallons)|
|Typical Length||95 cm (37.4 inches)|
|Head Diameter||56 cm (22 inches)|
|Common Wood Thickness||27 mm (2 inch)|
|Number of Hoops||6 or 8|
|Bung Hole Diameter||50 mm (2 inches)|
|Typical Barrel Weight||50 kg (110 pounds)|
|Total Weight when Full||275 kg (600 pounds)|
Images of a Cooper at Chateau Margaux, Bordeaux region
Quite a while ago (in 2013) I worked at one of the most famous of Bordeaux First Growth wineries: Chateau Margaux. This prestigious wine producer has its own cooper pictured below.
FYI: it is rather rare for wine estates to have an in-house cooper and cooperage. Wine barrels are generally bought by wineries to specialized manufacturers.
Love to Increase your Wine Knowledge ?
Also Find the Wine Bottle Anatomy – Infographic:
Find out more and all of Social Vignerons Wine Infographics
This wine barrel infographic was designed and developed by Fernanda Franco on an original concept by Social Vignerons.
Fernanda Franco is fine artist and designer, she finds inspiration in her travels and in nature and in color, recent art/wine trips include France, Italy, England and Spain. Her ever-growing body of fine art includes monotypes, blockprints, drawings and watercolors on paper. Fernanda has worked as a senior graphic designer for JPMorgan Private Bank, MoMa, the Whitney Museum and several design studios in New York.
Find more about Fernanda and her work at www.fernandafranco.com