In the conversation about wine and spirits, where talk of terroir, of grape varietals and clones, of yeast strains and heritage grains abounds, barrels tend to be given little attention. Often all that is noted is how long a particular libation spent aging in the barrel and whether that barrel was made from French or American oak. But as Henry H. Work, a longtime cooper himself, notes, barrels, which are often the second-highest expense at many wineries and a growing one, profoundly impact the end product. Barrels were omnipresent throughout much of the development of whiskey and wine and are inextricably linked to the industry today—few wineries’ or distilleries’ marketing copy, Work points out, would be complete without a few images of elegant wooden barrels.
© 2014 Bryce T Bauer