Storing Barrels

My barrels are:

  • filled immediately with the subsequent vintage
  • ozone fill and cap
  • fill with sulfited water
  • air dry in the sun
  • other

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How do you guys store your barrels between vintages? I imagine everyone rinses (with dechlorinated water?) and possible with a mineral remover, but then what? I ask because I’m air drying, but even with this heat wave the barrels seem to continue “weeping” wine. Between the newly formed puddles and the stuffed paper towels in the bung to keep the fruit flies out, it seems they’ll take forever to dry. Which makes me think you guys must do something different…

My barrels are ‘power washed’ with a barrel blaster, then steamed, then ozoned, then dried, then sulfured (with SO2 gas) on a regular basis until I use them again.

The best is your first option tho, filling immediately with the subsequent vintage. But that doesn’t work for me.

Thanks, Eric. I’ll look into steaming options, that seems the most accessible to a garage winemaker.

My home winemaking process, having just one barrel, is to bottle post-harvest. After bottling, we rinse out the barrel and pump the next wine in from our tank. Seems like the safest and most hassle-free way to do it for our set-up.

After cleaning the barrels (barrel-washer, steam, ozone) we add a couple gallons of citric/SO2 solution, put in a bung, and roll the barrels around to coat the entire inside. So the barrels are not dried but are kept at least semi-hydrated. Used a similar method in the past before we had access to steam and ozone.

Wes, the reason I’ve avoided that is because press day tends to be a long one and bottling day a long one. So its nice to have a bit of a break between (primarily due to domestic responsibilities). In retrospect, I prefer your approach… live and learn.

Ken, thanks for the tip. I’ve heard of this being done fully topped up, but not partially. I presume you routinely rolled the barrels to keep it evenly wet.

At least I’ll be able to conduct my first leaky barrel repair with bee’s wax on a dry and empty barrel!


Your wallet may not like the steam and ozone path. As small as your production is it may not be very cost effective. Try your best to go vintage to vintage with a wash out.

If you’re just dealing with a barrel or two, a small pressure washer (the 1500ish psi types) works just fine to get them clean without using too much water and costs way less than a barrel blaster/steam cleaner/ozone/etc. Blast all the areas you can reach with the pressure washer and then give them a good rinse or two. I’d probably use one of those dechlorinator hose setups.

To store them, let them dry overnight, burn some sulfur wick inside, then stick a Dixie cup in the bung. Give them a rinse before you use them to get out any residue and to re-hydrate the barrels, but they should keep just fine for a few months at the least. It isn’t the super-clean ozone/steam/etc program, but I think it’d be fine for home winemaking. Just clean the barrels right after you empty them; the sooner you clean them the easier it is and the cleaner they’ll be.

To be clear, we have a stainless floating top tank, so the wine is settled before going into barrel. This also gives me the luxury of waiting til after harvest season to schedule a bottling day.

I also settle post pressing, though just reuse the cleaned out white plastic primary fermenters. Between only making reds, and still having a bit more fermentation underway providing a CO2 blanket, I haven’t seen the need for a floating top tank. Naive?

Doesn’t sound naive, but you certainly need to be careful and subservient to the ferment. The tank is a luxury. It takes up space, too. On the plus side, it’s the sort of capital equipment that holds its value.

I started this season with not rinsing after racking. Once I have racked clear, I roll it around so the lees touch every surface, and then drain. Dry for two days and then burn 5g of SO2. I have tried all of the other methods to varying degrees of success but this has worked well so far. Olivier Lamy and Benjamin Leroux swear by it too!

That sounds pretty risky Andrew. What do you think the lees is doing to help maintain the barrel that rinsing and steaming would not achieve?

I have refilled barrels immediately with the new vintage without rinsing but if I leave them even a day I would power-wash them to remove tart rates and lees. That also allows the new wine to be in contact with the wood, rather than the tartrates.

I have heard of this before but am not brave enough to do it, maybe I will try a barrel or 2 next year. I also don’t think I have enough lees/sediment left after racking to bottling tank. I settle one night post pressing and only rack once with a racketeer.

I personally use ozone and a barrel washing wand. Let dry 24hours then put a breathable bung on it. They are usually filled within 30 days of being emptied for bottling. If I have any I saved for a whole vintage I just ozone gas it for 45 seconds or so and replace bung every time I top every 3 weeks.

When we were making home wine I did acidulated water and 150ppm or so so2 add. We only rinsed with a garden hose. We had no issues. I tried burring so2 but did not seem to have great luck with it. For any kind of winery scale its just to much water, acid and so2 to use but for home winemaking it will keep the barrel hydrated and germ free even though it will be hard to move if its full.

I use the barrel storage solution suggested by Vinquiry. sO2 and citric

So far no issues. I know it turns the barrels neutral faster, but I am ok with that.

I’ve seen this advice in the past too, and wonder why they suggest Citric and not Tartaric.

The Science of Wine, pg 149:

Citric acid present in wine can be degraded by lactic acid bacteria, resulting in elevated levels of acetic acid (volatile acidity). It is degraded to pyruvic acid and then acetic acid, and this process also results in the production of diacetyl.

I guess because tartaric acid will form tartrate salts and therefore disappear.