Topping Oak Barrels February 24, 2016 08:04

Fill a barrel to the rim. You come back 3 weeks later and the wine level has gone down an inch below the rim. 


A barrel does not stay full naturally. A barrel looses wine naturally. A little wine disappears every day. So an important ongoing cellar job is "topping" or refilling barrels back to the top. The goal is keep the barrel completely full so the wine is not exposed to excessive oxygen.

Where does all that wine go? The fanciful (and best) answer is the wine disappears because it is drunk by angels,  the "Angels Share".  Another answer: Barrels are oak. Oak has very fine pores, small enough not to leak. Porous enough to allow invisible evaporation.

Barrels are the best vessel for maturing wine because of this subtle movement though the wood. Some liquid leaves which concentrates flavors and a small amount of oxygen enters softening the tannins.

  This barrel has just been topped.