Tag Archives: whiskey barrels

Where The Barrels Have Gone

Many have asked over the past months, why availability of used wine barrels has become poor, while prices have risen. The short answer is, well, there really isn’t a short answer.

To put it simply, several forces have been brought together to create this problem.

The most obvious answer to why there is a shortage of used wine barrels is due to winemaking, or rather the increased production and sale of wine, especially here in the United States. Wine consumption is at an all-time high in the U.S., therefore wineries are increasing output and in-turn retaining and using barrels longer. Add to that, the fact California grape productions has been huge over the last few years, which has vintners hedging their bets and holding onto barrels that would otherwise be retired. It’s a little more complicated than that, but essentially, barrels were being hoarded by wineries.

Spirit makers 

Now grape production has slowed a bit in California due to the drought, which we’ve discussed in prior stories. Okay, so where are those barrels? That’s another reason used wine barrels are more rare: spirit makers are buying up those used barrels from the Golden State for increased production of different alcohols including whiskey. Couple that with more craft brewers using more used wine barrels – like local brewery Firestone Walker – and voila, barrels disappeared from the barns of wineries at alarming rates.

Whiskey barrel with bottle lights

Barrels are used for a multitude of creations

These aren’t the only reasons that barrels are harder and harder to find. The furniture business has exploded with used wine barrels being taken apart to be re-crafted into a menagerie of furnishings such as chairs, which are extremely popular. Also, art-based fixtures like lighting and more simpler ideas such as pots and pan holders, plus more common uses like hat and coat hangers with staves have burst on the scene.

We at Paso Wine Barrels are always searching and sometimes we have to limit the sale of used barrels so we have enough to make our popular Decorative barrels. In two years, we’ve had a couple one-month spells where there weren’t enough barrels to go around. The industry will ebb and flow with availability a matter of timing as to who has barrels and who doesn’t.

A few years ago, it wasn’t unusual for used wine barrels to be free to pick up. Those days are long gone.

Additional sources: Wine Institute


Daryle W. Hier




Where Are The Barrels?

New oak wine barrel

New oak wine barrels are readily available and prices remain the same, but old used barrels are harder to find.

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.

Old barrels

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




Hey!  Ask us about our reduced freight for Central Coast citizens.  Also, we offer reduced freight for quantity orders – just email us for details.