Made to fit


Each barrel is a hand-crafted masterpiece, made for the customer’s needs, in the same way that a Savile Row tailor makes a suit for you (well, perhaps not quite Thomas Mahon and English Cut, but I’m sure get the idea).
Every barrel you can see on the Devon beach above was made for a specific job.
This is how it goes. A winemaker orders a barrel, or 10 or 20, made from not just oak, but oak from a particular place, for the wine that he will make from a specific vineyard.
Different forests, growing at different altitudes and soils produce different textures and flavours in oak.
The customer specifies the wine he is going to put in it and asks the cooper to toast the barrel staves (planks) over a wood chip fire to an exact degree, like you ask for your meat to be grilled just the way you like it, such as rare or medium. He knows the type and length of toasting that he needs to suit the wine that will ferment in there.
When the barrel is finished it is checked to see that it is ‘winetight’. And then it is wrapped in plastic and labelled with the customer’s name, plus the treatment.
Looking at the MSC Napoli mishap on the bright side, wine lovers who complain about too much oak in wine should be happy with the 2007 whites from South Africa.
And no top garden in Devon will be complete without a thousand dollar barrel feature.


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