You talk with winemakers and those in the industry and find that a mix of reasons as to why used wine barrels are harder to find these days. The immediate conundrum is the fact that new barrels are readily available and not going up in price. Still, here in California, the lack of the used barrels problem is exaggerated by more and more wine production every year. So, what are the explanations being given for the shortage of old barrels?
Unlike ‘Where’s Waldo’, old used barrels are not always there … or anywhere. First off, a quick explanation on the availability of new barrels. While the United States has increased their consuming of wine, other parts of the world including Europe have decreased consumption of vino. Plus, oak barrel production has increased with new areas generating wine barrels including many in the U.S.
Nevertheless, used barrels are becoming difficult to find. Why? One reason is here in California we’ve had two bumper crops of grapes in a row and this year appears to be another one. Wineries are essentially hoarding their barrels, hanging onto them for another year rather than purchase new barrels. Although much can change between now and harvest, it seems used barrels will remain with vintners a bit longer than normal.
Another reason that I wasn’t aware of until recently was the demand for any kind of barrel for whiskey. The head of a giant wine production facility in Napa told me that especially the Scotch producers were buying up every barrel they can get their hands on. This coupled with craft beer and other liquor manufacturers that are using oak barrels more often and you can see why there might be a shortage.
Also our fault
Also, to cut into the availability of old used wine barrels is the furniture business and of course the ever-increasing popular use of barrels as planters – that would be someone I know very well. I’ve been contacted by furniture firms who need used wine barrels for the growing industry of oak wine barrel reproductions made into all types of creations and fixtures. And finally, not to be outdone, Decorative Wine Barrels along with half barrels like planters and hose holders made by Paso Wine Barrels are increasing in status as a great alternative to artificial containers made of plastic and shipped in from China.
The lack of used barrels may change if the current drought in California affects quality and production or demand changes. In addition, if weather alters for the worse or possibly early frost hurts vines before they can be picked, that could dramatically revise needs for used barrels. For now though, finding an old used oak wine barrel becomes harder to find – and of course with demand outpacing production, the prices are eventually going up.
Old used barrels or the recrafted Decorative styles remain available at reduced prices at Paso Wine Barrels, but holding cost down right now is iffy. In the mean time, buy them where you can or go to PasoWineBarrels.com.
Daryle W. Hier
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