Many people think that wine barrels are simple receptacles used to store wine for a short or a longer period of time. Barrels need to be tended properly, though, to ensure that the wine maintains its integrity. For that reason, it is important to know how to preserve a wine barrel so that it lasts for years to come.
Okanagan Barrel Works of Oliver, British Columbia, advises filling the barrel about 25 percent full with hot water. Seal the barrel tightly and rotate. Check for leaks, which should seal on their own as the wood expands.
When the barrel shows no signs of leakage, empty and rinse, according to Okanagan Barrel Works.
The oak in a new barrel can overwhelm wine. Before you use the barrel for wine, you may want to fill it halfway with very hot water. Seal tightly and rotate. Okanagan Barrel Works advises leaving the water in the barrel overnight and then emptying.
Fill the barrel completely with wine, making sure to avoid having any air space inside. Air can oxidize the wine and give it an unpleasant taste. If there is not enough wine to fill the barrel, top it off with some finished wine.
Clean the wine barrel between fills. Most of the time this can be done with hot water and a cold-water rinse. Sometimes, though, a barrel needs a chemical rinse for stubborn tartrates or odors, according to Okanagan Barrel Works. Sodium percarbonate, a white powder, works well for this purpose. The barrel maker advises dissolving the powder in some water, adding it to the barrel and filling the barrel with water. After 24 hours, empty the barrel and rinse well with clean, cold water.
Store the empty barrel properly. The best method to preserve a wine barrel is to keep it full with wine all the time. When this is not possible, make sure the empty barrel is tight and treat it regularly for mold and bacteria. Sulphite solution and potassium metabisulphite are two of the most used solutions for treating for bacteria.