At this time of year in my wine-making life I have to inspect old barrels. Not a very romantic job, but important for preparing for harvest in the Fall.
Here are some examples of what you don’t want to see.
Wine barrel is not water tight
This image shows a barrel with stripes on the edge of every stave. This is a sign that the barrel is not water tight.
To fix this problem: Use only chlorine free clean, potable water. While standing the barrel upright, fill the barrel with about 6 gals of water. Cover the bung hole and roll the barrel 5 to 8 times to wet the inside of the barrel. Stand the barrel once again and put water on the head up to the top of the chime. After 4 to 8 hours, once again, roll the barrel 5 to 8 times and this time stand it on the other head and top the head with water up to the chime. Let stand for an additional 4 to 8 hours, them remove all water. Once all water is removed the barrel should be filled with wine immediately. If the barrel is not filled immediately after all water is removed, gas with sulfur to prevent any mold growth
Wine barrel leaked after it was filled
This barrel shows that the staves on the barrel head were not water tight and caused the barrel to leak after the barrel was filled. The problem fix I used above will work.
But, if you have wine in the barrel already, you can use hot water to soak the head until you don’t see wine leaking anymore. Also, if it stops leaking use a scrub brush with an SO2 solution and scrub the wine off the barrel to prevent mold growth or VA to start.
In the third barrel you see that the staves are broken on the side of the barrel. If you see this it can’t be repaired and the barrel should now be used as a planter.