We’re obviously a little fanatical about vinification and so we’re very particular (as are all winemakers) about which wine barrels to ferment and mature our wines in.
Oak barrels have been used in winemaking for millennia. The Romans were the first to change from clay amphora to oak barrels after they came across the resourceful Gauls using them to transport beer. It was soon discovered that oak generally makes wine taste better. It adds complexity, develops richness, and provides complimentary flavour and aroma to the wine. Over time the use of oak barrels has become integral to winemaking.
Finding a dependable cooperage making barrels that suit your winemaking style, however, isn’t easy. Not only are they’re expensive things, but it takes years of trial and error to find a good match.
We have a saying in Afikaans: “Wynmaak is ‘n loopbaan, nie ‘n renbaan nie.”, which unfortunately doesn’t have a neat English translation, because it plays cleverly on the double meaning of “loop”. Essentially, it means that you can’t rush anything in this business if you want to do it properly. The direct translation is “Winemaking is a career, not a racetrack.”
We work within a cycle of seasons and everything takes its own time to develop. There are unfortunately no short cuts.
I like this. It’s a refreshingly grounded industry in a modern existence that continually out-paces itself. The world outside of wine blurs by at an ever disorienting pace. Happily, we have to turn away from this as our job refocuses us on the natural pace of reality – one that (so far) cannot be altered by humans – the slow, steady, inevitable spinning of our planet Earth.
I have always been quite lucky with barrels. When I was working on California’s Sonoma Coast in the 1990s, I came across a brilliant barrel we were using for Zinfandel. They were made by a small cooperage in Napa called Barrel Associates. When I came home to start Flagstone winery, I couldn’t find them here, so I started importing and distributing them myself. I have been doing so for over 16 years.
This cooperage has been developing and producing the finest American oak wine barrels for over 20 years. These beautiful barrels are produced using traditional and innovative bending and toasting regimes to impart luscious depths, exceptional palate length and bewildering complexity.
For more information on the different types of barrels we import, please contact Catherine