The maturing of wine by the traditional method requires a great deal of manpower and involves heavy and dangerous lifting as the barrels are stored in piles and specific ones need to be tested. The only way to do this is to unstack the barrels until the right ones are reached.
Spanish wine producer CVNE and French barrel maker Seguin Moreau combined within a EUREKA project to not only devise a new storage system for barrels but to also look at the design of the barrels themselves and develop a new ageing process.
The project researched optimization of barrel size, wood to be used, cooperages and barrel testing control. Even the slightest barrel design change could save expensive oak, especially French oak, the best but also most expensive.
The barrels are now stored in a new racking system that allows access to every barrel without disturbing others or having to lift and move them all.
This has led to an improvement of the ageing process control, thanks to optimum accessibility to each of the barrels that allows a complete follow-up of the wine's hygienic state, its aromatic quality and oxidation level during maturing.
French partner Seguin Moreau provided a variety of new barrels in differing sizes and made from new woods including east-European oaks. These were tested by CVNE particularly looking at the relationship between wine to wood surface ratio affecting the quality of ageing. As Basilio Izquierrdo of CVNE explained "The study has easily shown that the new 265 litre barrel proposed has interesting advantages in terms of cost and reduction of barrel numbers (oak is saved in the barrel manufacturing process), without any negative change in wine evolution."
CVNE is looking to exploit the new wine maturing process applying it to all of its vintage wines. It is also patenting the stacking system and will tailor it to the needs of each wine producer who requests its use.
Meanwhile Seguin Moreau, already one of the most important barrel making manufacturers worldwide has a new barrel design and wood treatment techniques to utilise.