When it Comes to Wood, Size Matters

Chapter Thirteen, Parts Three, Seven & Eight.

Surrounded by botti with Filippo Fedriani at Marchesato degli Aleramici in Montalcino.

Surrounded by botti with Filippo Fedriani at Marchesato degli Aleramici in Montalcino.

Different wine regions use barrels of varying size to fit their needs (and maybe their warehouses). The volume of the popular Hogshead barrel seems to vary with every industry, but for wine it has come to mean a 63-gallon barrel, while the uniquely named butt barrel holds two Hogsheads or 126 gallons. The winemakers of Bordeaux find a barrel holding 59.4 gallons is perfectly suited for Cabernet and Merlot based wines. In Montalcino, where tradition dictates that Brunello di Montalcino be aged in cask for three years, wine is matured in large Slovenian casks called botte, or the plural botti, a term presumably derived from butt (those are 6 words I never imagined myself writing). Smaller barrels have a stronger impact on wine, so most Brunello producers use botti because they feel three years aging in small casks would produce overpowering oak flavors in the finished product.

The winery owner said to his winemaker, “This wine is completely over-oaked! It tastes like vanilla extract, it’s too sweet, and lacks any sense of terroir! Congratulations, it will be a huge success!”
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