Barrel Aged: Denotes a wine that has spent a period of time in barrels before bottling. This affects wine in numerous ways—the flavors in newly blended wines knit together, tannins in red wines soften and white wines become richer and more full-bodied. Aging in new oak barrels (barrels used for the first few times) can add aromas and flavors of vanilla, spice and smoke.
Barrel Fermented: Denotes wine that has been fermented in small casks (usually 55-gallon oak barrels) instead of larger tanks. Advocates believe that barrel fermentation contributes greater harmony between the oak and the wine, increases body and adds complexity, texture and flavor to certain wine types. Its liabilities are that more labor is required and greater risks are involved. It is mainly used for whites.
Barrel Making: After the wood for a barrel is cut and dried, the cooper heats the wood while shaping it into a barrel. Steam, natural gas, boiling water, the burning of oak chips or some combination of these is used in the three-part heating process. The first application of heat (the warming stage) is called chauffage, the bending of the wooden staves into a barrel shape is called cintrage and, finally, the toasting of the wood for flavor is called bousinage.
Toasted Barrels: As a barrel is being constructed, but before the heads at either end are added, the cooper (barrel maker) chars the inside edges of the staves. This final treatment imparts aromas of vanilla, spice and smoke to the wood and then the wine. Char levels include light, medium and heavy toast. Winemakers order barrels with their favorite levels of toast to influence their wine styles.