Let us learn about barrels
The first references are lost in the depth of the times. But let us go through them step by step!
They have their own storyReferences to the use of barrels are found in Roman times. In particular, Plinius writes that “…near the Alps, they place the wine in wooden pots to protect it from freezing because of the cold of wintertime”. A first image of a barrel is seen on the Traianus Column, which describes the preparation of his campaign against the Dacians (101-107 μ.χ.). An image of a ship carrying barrels, sculpted on marble, dated back to the 3rd century A.D.
After the fall of the Roman Empire, and the abandonment of the viniculture, the use of barrels ceases, to recuperate in the Byzantine period. The wide use of barrels continues during Francocracy, as, during this period, commerce was not only active but had also increased, thus contributing to the maintenance of the barrel-making craft. During Turcocracy viniculture diminishes, as does the art of barrel-making, to upturn no earlier than alongside with the establishment of the new Greek State.
Barrel – making was a common profession during the prewar period (in Heraklion, Crete, there were about 50 barrel-makers), as the wood was a supple material and easier to be found. Its use was not restricted to the wine, but it was used as a means of storing and transferring olive-oil, cheese, wine, tsipouro (raki), but also water.
The barrel of my own cellar
Barrels are constructed of wood, originating from oak, beech and chestnut trees, oak barrels certainly predominating. Regarding white wines, chestnut wood barrels should ideally be avoided, because their wood pigments affect the colour of the wine. A used barrel, should be washed in hot water and a special disinfectant. In the case of the barrels, the rule “the older, the better” is not valid. The barrels we will use must not be older than 4 years, in an excellent condition, impermeable and free of cracks. After being washed, it must be well drained, so that the wood does not mildew, passing the fungus smell on to the wine. We must avoid the use of a barrel of whisky, because its colour will corrode the wine.
A new barrel should also be washed before it is used, so that its lags tighten up sufficiently. Finally, we should not forget the cork, which will seal the barrel at the end of the fermentation, in order to protect the wine from its greatest enemy, the oxygen.