While many wine enthusiasts have seen and are familiar with the large wooden wine barrels often seen around wineries and restaurants, the amount of wine that is contained in each is far from common knowledge.
The most common style of wine barrel used today is called a Bordeaux barrel and holds just about 60 gallons of wine. The Bordeaux region of France produces some of the most valuable and sought-after bottles of wine in the world today.
How Many Gallons In A Wine Barrel? – The 3 Different Types
1. Bordeaux Barrel
The Bordeaux barrel is the most commonly used style of barrel used in the wine world today and is made from French Oak.
French Oak is considered superior to all other types for the aging of wine, and costs at least double as much as any other type of oak wood.
When Napoleon was in power, he commissioned the planting of entire forests worth of oak trees to ensure that there would be enough wood for French shipbuilding in the future. As the years went on, oak was no longer the primary type of wood used for shipbuilding.
French winemakers began to experiment with the wood for the purpose of aging wine and found it to have many benefits on the taste and overall quality of the wine.
Luckily, there was a massive supply of the wood readily available, and the Bordeaux barrel was born.
The Bordeaux barrel holds exactly 225 liters, which comes out to just under 60 gallons. They are hand-made by experienced coopers, and the oak must be split by hand to preserve the integrity of its grain.
Each Bordeaux barrel holds the equivalent of 300 bottles of wine.
The reason that French oak and Bordeaux barrels are so much more expensive than other types is due to the interaction it has with wine while aging.
The tannins in the wine interact with the wood’s tannins, which soften them and change the bitterness profile of the wine.
2. Burgundy Barrel
The Burgundy Barrel is the second most used style of wine barrel used in the wine industry and is also named after the French wine region where it was created.
The Burgundy barrel is only slightly larger than the Bordeaux barrel and can hold 228 liters as opposed to 225.
While the liquid capacity between the two most common wine barrel sizes is only 3 liters (the equivalent of 4 bottles of wine,) their shapes are very different, and the Burgundy barrel actually sits lower than the Bordeaux barrel.
The design of the Burgundy barrel is shorter and “squattier,” with a deeper and rounder bilge than that featured in the Bordeaux barrel.
This allows the lees from yeast to settle in the bottom of the barrel more easily, which is perfect for Chardonnay and other white wines.
Lees contact is important when oaking chardonnay, as the greater surface area of the wine that is in contact with the lees, the more “round” and “creamy” the wine becomes.
This gives white wine aged in Burgundy barrels a unique and layered flavor of oak and a long-length of finish.
3. Whiskey Barrel Sizes
While the Bordeaux and Burgundy barrels are by far the most common sizes of barrel used in the wine world, there are many different sized barrels that are used for aging everything from fortified wine to beer and spirits.
The American Standard Barrel is most often used for whiskey and holds 200 liters or 54 gallons.
In Scotland and Ireland, whiskey is traditionally aged in “Hogshead” barrels, which hold between 250 and 300 liters. This comes out to between 66 and 79 gallons.