Choosing the Right Oak Barrel for Your Homemade Wine

When we think of making wine we picture grape stomping and a cellar filled with oak barrels patiently housing delicious wines. But an oak barrel is more than just a barrel. As a home wine maker, choosing the right barrel to ferment your wine is just as important as picking the right grape.

At Castle Rock Home Brew Supplies we provide both American and French oak barrels


To help you decide, here’s a quick overview of the difference between the American and the French oak.

American Oak: The Quercus Alba, otherwise known as the white oak that grows in the eastern states – as well as California – in the United States. The American white oak barrel contribute aromas, flavors and tannin to your wine. American oak tends to be sweater and contains more vanillin compounds than its French counterpart.

French Oak: France has two types of white oak, the Quercus Petraea and Quercus Robur. The finer of the two is Quercus Petraea. This white oak is much more tightly grained than the American white oak, imparting more subtle flavors and silkier tannins to the wine.

Key Differences between American and French Oak: Both American oak and French oak contribute aromas, flavors and tannin to a wine. French oak (particularly Quercus Petraea) is much tighter grained and less dense than the American Quercus Alba. As such French oak imparts more subtle flavors and firmer, but silkier tannins.

Other factors to consider when picking a barrel for homemade wine

  • The age of the oak — When the barrel is brand new, the oaky flavors will be more intense and this should be taken into consideration. By the fourth or fifth pass, negligible flavor is left to impart.
  • The level of toast (high, medium or light) – Yup, you need to toast your barrel before adding the wine to age, but we’ll get into that another time. The higher the temperature for toasting, the more intense the flavors will be
  • The size of the barrel – The smaller the barrel, the stronger the oak flavor

Harvesting grapes

Castle Rock Home Brew has the finest products for home made wine

To learn more about the intricacies of home brewing fine wine, talk to the experts at Castle Rock Home Brew Supplies. We offer classes to help you become a seasoned home vintner, as well as the best homemade wine kits in the industry. We deal in only the best and most seasonal products for your next batch. Stop by today and sign up for classes or get all your questions answered.

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