This might be open to interpretation but here we go.
At Paso Wine Barrels, we take in almost any type of full sized used wine barrels to reuse and make into a decorative piece for display or use. However, we noticed that there were barrels that had a definite stripe between the two bilge hoops or bands (see our wine barrel page) that go around the center.
We’ve also noticed that some barrels have heavily stained areas around the center, which aren’t easy to get rid of and end up being a part of the original imperfections that each barrels have when we give them new life.
Still, the painted ones appeared harder to sand out so we’ve stayed away from them – they’re on our list of future to-do’s. However, back to the question which was: Why do the barrels have a red stripe around them?
Although there might be other explanations, there are two most common and simple sets of answers. First off, in wineries, to keep the wine sorted between red and white, companies paint the red wine barrels with the red stripe to merely designate red from white wines. The second belief is the barrels are painted red because of aesthetics – and maybe some pride – because the wine is tested by the winemaker occasionally while aging to keep tabs on when the wine is ready. It’s not necessarily a sloppy job but accidents are common.
The casks all come from the cooperage as white oak barrels so the accompanying accoutre mon and painting is usually done at the wineries. The red ‘paint’ is usually a mix of red food dye and/or wine like a Petit Verdot, which is frequently used for blending or adding color to other varietals, especially here in California. Some wineries will add to the paint the actual vintage for that particular wine either from the prior year’s crush, and also note wood stain is also used. Still others use beet, pomegranate or other assorted juices that stain easily.
Occasionally the question is asked, is it healthy that wine is spilled? Couldn’t that create microbial problems? The simple answer is no. We may talk about this at another time.
So, whether the answer is vanity or uniformity, these rationales are the best explanations for why some wine barrels have a red stripe down the middle.