Barril . Container formed by staves, wooden pieces with the necessary shape to give the characteristic profile of the barrel, held by metal bands , and with flat covers, also made of wood, called bottoms. It can also be called barrel or barrel.


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  • 1 History
    • 1 Construction
    • 2 Materials for its construction
    • 3 Characteristics to be met by wood
  • 2 Other types of barrels
    • 1 Maintenance
      • 1.1 Rinsing and cleaning
    • 2 Cleaning a used barrel
    • 3 Moldy barrels
    • 4 Sour barrels
    • 5 Sulfuring the barrels
    • 6 Curiosities
  • 3 Sources


The barrel, barrel or wooden barrel has been used, since time immemorial, as a means or container for the transport of wine . Pliny the Elder already mentioned it in his writings, attributing its origin to the Celts , who transported in this medium not only wine but all kinds of merchandise.

With the arrival of the Romans , who used the amphora , it was replaced by the wooden barrel with the same purpose. Parallel to their conquests, they implant it in all the coastal wine regions of the Mediterranean . In turn, they learn the trade and the mastery of Cooperage .

In the 18th century it was used as a container in maritime transport. From this comes the name of “tonnage” as the carrying capacity of ships, referring to the number of barrels the ship could transport.

Until well into the 20th century , a series of products, such as oil , salted fish, salt , sugar , etc., were stored and transported in wooden barrels. From the 1950s-1960s, other materials – especially stainless steel – replaced wood; only it survives for its use in the aging of wines.


Barrel making is an art that has been forged through the centuries thanks to the work of the coopers. Although mechanization has been gradually relegating artisanal production, the steps necessary to make a barrel have changed little over time.

Once the oak is felled, the parts of the tree are reserved without knots, to avoid liquid losses and oxidation through them. Logs are cut from these parts, which are called billons in French, with a diameter between 50 and 60 centimeters and a length slightly greater than that of the future staves or boards that make up the barrel. The logs will then be cut into quarters. Typically French oakDue to the fineness of its pore, it is cut by the creasing system, which consists of inserting a large wedge that grinds the trillion through the grain of the wood. In this way the opening of the pores is avoided, although there is a greater waste of wood. The rest of the oaks are normally quartered directly by sawing. Two staves are obtained from each paddock, which still without their final shape are left to dry for a period of between 18 and 36 months.

Once the wood is ready, the cooper’s work begins. The first thing to do is to give shape to the staves, which must present their final measurement, the external face smoothed and the internal curved, the ends narrowed and the edges bevelled. Then proceed to assemble the helmet. The staves are placed vertically, and by means of the reinforcing ring they are joined by their edges until completing a circumference. Once this shape has been given, two temporary metal rings consisting of the collector and the tripero- are introduced, which will be used throughout the manufacturing process of the barrel so that the staves are not misaligned.

It is important to insist that between the staves there is no element that assembles them, but that they are fixed by the pressure they exert on each other. For this reason it is important that the barrel always retain a humidity of around 80%, so that the wood swells and remains compact. To guarantee resistance to the pressure exerted by the wine, wide and narrow staves alternate. One of them will be larger than the rest of the master stave, since it is drilled to include the cork or filling hole.

Through the tame of the hull, the staves of the barrel are curved to form the widening or central belly. For this, a brazier is placed inside the hull, the barrel is wetted and, with a rope and a tow rope that hugs the bottom of the barrel, the wood is gradually pressed. The combination of fire, water and rope will end up giving the final shape to the barrel. The flames of the brazier will contribute the toasting to the interior of the barrel, which will later be shown in the wine in the form of empyreumatic aromas.

Building the barrel lid

Before placing the bottoms it is necessary to prepare the ends of the barrel. This phase is known as the decapitation, by means of which the edges of the barrel are chamfered, the edges are leveled and the jables are opened, that is, channels where the bottoms will be adjusted. To make the funds, several boards are joined, usually in an odd number, by means of double-pointed nails. Usually, strips of cattail are placed between the boards to facilitate sealing, and finally, after drawing a circumference with the corresponding measure, it is sawed. The edges of the cover take a wedge shape to cause a correct fit in the jable.

The reinforcing ring is removed to fit the bottoms, and then a paste of water and flour paste is introduced into the rack to facilitate correct assembly and avoid leaks. Finally, the definitive cellos are placed, which are thinner than the assembly rings to facilitate the movement of the barrels, and the outer part is reviewed with sticks and scrapers to give it an optimal appearance. After opening the cork or filling hole, the barrel is filled with boiling water and steam to cause it to swell and prevent leaks.

Materials for its construction

Currently the main material used is oak wood. The development of trade in the 19th century allowed coopers to use oak trees from Russia and Ukraine to their advantage . The white oak of America is traditionally used to age the whiskey .

In countries like Chile , the barrels are made of raulí or larch wood. When the barrel was used to store all conceivable liquids, oils or even solids ( gunpowder ), the coopers used the locally available woods, adapting the barrel’s tightness and neutrality in relation to the stored product. On the contrary, today the oak barrel is used for wines, its aromatic characteristics being highly appreciated.

Characteristics to be met by wood

A good wood for making barrels must count among its properties: permeability, low porosity, density and adequate ring size, high mechanical resistance, ease of splitting, high durability.

Other types of barrels

In addition to the wooden ones, there are other types of barrels such as metal ones made of steel sheet, they can be with a removable, conical, two-cap lid. They can also be made of aluminum , stainless steel, plastics , polyethylene (PE-HD) with removable cover or with 2 caps.


Rinse and clean

As soon as a barrel is emptied of its wine, it must be thoroughly cleaned to avoid molds and acetobacterial deterioration. It needs to be rinsed with plenty of water. Then the easiest way to remove deposits that adhere to the interior walls is to use a chain without any trace of oxidation or a stainless steel chain. It is then enough to rinse well with water, drain and allow to dry between 5 to 7 days before sulfuring and seal tightly. Never leave water in the barrel because it would soon become stagnant or rotten.

Cleaning a used barrel

When a barrel has not been used for a long time, it is essential to sterilize it, because it must be clean (sterile) and must not have any bad smell. Blanching it is insufficient even with boiling water, the temperature is not high enough to guarantee the destruction of the enzymes. Smoking it by steam injection (under pressure 4 atmospheres or 5 kgs) gives excellent results.

The steam condenses on the walls of the barrel and guarantees a good washing, it makes the inner surface reach a high temperature, thus destroying the ferments that the barrel may contain. Do not exceed half an hour of injection. Rinse with fresh water and drain carefully.

Moldy barrels

Bacteria and molds can lodge deep in the pores of the wood. Even with a good treatment, there is a risk of seriously damaging the wine. It is necessary to break (open) the barrel. The interior walls are brushed with a grass brush and a 10% solution of soda crystals and hot water. Steam is put in to destroy the microbes. If you do not have a facility to use steam, it is cleaned well with a 5% dilution of sulfuric acid and hot water.

Sour barrels

Sour barrels are inappropriate for containing wine. However they can be chemically treated. It is enough to saturate the acetic acid with an alkaline substance.

The wood is wetted filling the barrel with fresh water and it is left between 24 and 48 hours. Then it is replaced by pouring 1 Kg. Of soda crystals per hectoliter dissolved in 5 L of boiling water. The barrel is shaken well and left in contact for 12 hours. The solution is then evacuated and rinsed thoroughly with cold water.

The soda solution saturates the acetic acid and forms a soluble salt that repeated washing removes. You can use caustic soda or potash , 100 to 125 grams. per hectoliter of capacity, but it is common to leave residues of these products which then dissolve in the wine.

It ends up steaming. This destroys the microbes of the acescence. If the treatment is insufficient, and if a bad smell persists, introduce 1 L of ammonia and shake well. Let stand 48 h, fill with cold water to eliminate the taste of ammonia. Then empty the water and drain well, the barrel will be well aseptic.

Sulfuring the barrels

The interior is sulfurized to create an antiseptic atmosphere that guarantees a good conservation of the barrel. The sulfur to the burn consumes oxygen thereby eliminating the dangers of mold or bacteria and so sterilizes the interior of the barrel. A quarter of a sulfur wick is enough, or for 10 liters of air burn 1 gram. If the sulfur does not burn, the barrel may contain carbonic acid from fermentation or an acetic acid overload. Empty wine barrels must imperatively sulfur every month. It is then spaced every 3 months because the SO2 surcharge forms S03 and even SO4 and the chemical reaction forms sulfuric acid .


The word “barricade” comes from the use of barrels filled with dirt and rubble to create barriers on the streets during the French Revolution


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