Wine barrels are a staple of the wine-making industry. Much care goes into the construction of barrels at every step of the process. Fashioned by skilled coopers, wine barrels are made from high-quality oak that imparts its own special flavor to the wine it contains. (See References 1) Oak for the wine barrels is carefully selected, and the best wine barrels are made from wood that is between 160 and 250 years old and carefully split to maximize the amount of wood grain. (See References 2) Constructing the perfect wine barrel can be a lengthy process.
Lay the staves out to dry before using. The best wine barrels are made with staves that have been exposed to air for 24 to 36 months. This allows the wood to season and age properly. Professional wine barrels are made with staves dried in France, which has the proper climate.
Take the staves and fit them together. It takes about 30 staves to make one barrel. Fit one galvanized steel hoop around the staves at one end and install with steel rivets.
Place the half-assembled barrel over a controlled fire. This makes the staves more flexible. After 20 minutes over the fire, the staves should reach the desired flexibility.
Bend the staves gradually with a winch to form them into an arched barrel shape. Trim the ends of the staves. Fit a second steel hoop around the other end to form the barrel.
Continue holding the barrel over the controlled fire for up to 40 minutes, depending on your preference. The length of time the barrel is toasted will affect the flavor of the wine aged inside. Different stages or degrees of toastiness are selected depending on the flavor of the wine to be stored. (See References 1)
Cut a croze, or groove, into the staves at either end to receive the barrel heads. Cut the barrel heads to fit the croze and assemble the heads from dowels and river reed to seal the heads and prevent leakage.
Place the round barrel heads at either end of the barrel. Hammer the hoops into place with the mallet.