Port Barrel

Discussion in 'Geek Grog & Homebrew' started by Ma Baker, Jul 5, 2008.

  1. OP
    OP
    Ma Baker

    Ma Baker Retired

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    Yes. We tend to drink from the 5 litre and top it up from the 15 litre so the 15 litre has the raw port added.

    When we bought ours it was oakey and we were told to draw some off an put more raw in. We kept what we'd drawn off and re-added it once it settled down, it saves having a batch that's really oakey. It was fine after that. When we bought the larger barrel we did the same by emptying the 5 litre in to bottles and topping it up from the new 15 litre barrel.
     
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2020
  2. hsvguy

    hsvguy Member

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    Yep, new wood will be very oaky, my barrel is new wood (got it 8 years ago), and i'm still not 100% happy with it. The port that comes out is good, but it's got nothing on the father in laws or mates grandpas. The stuff that come out of them is liquid gold.

    In regards to port type, in my opinion, always use tawny. Port (or porto), is a completely different product, more akin to wine.
     
  3. andy01

    andy01 Member

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    Interesting. I contacted St Anne's Winery today and asked a few questions about their barrels. I was astonished that I got a detailed reply to each question within about 20 minutes. Apparently their barrels are made by coopers in Europe using new European oak, and then they are seasoned at the winery with their tawny fortified for 6 months before they are sold. They do not have any linings or other interior coatings in them. If the barrel leaks continually within the first 12 months they will replace it (she said that problems are very rare). They sell their barrels with contents, and ship the barrel empty with the applicable contents (several options to choose from) in 5L plastic containers.

    I don't know enough about barrels to know whether new European oak is a good thing or a bad thing ?

    Pricewise, St Anne's seems to be reasonable - a 10L with 10L of Tawny is $365 delivered and the 20L is $520 delivered. They sell their oak tawny for $63 for 5L. They don't have stock of either 10L or 20L right now - apparently late November/December.

    A 20L from Tubbies or The Keg Factory is $493-510 (delivered) plus 20L of Tawny from Seppelsfield around $180 delivered, so a total of almost $700 (compared to $520 from St Anne's). Assuming the barrels are comparable, St Anne's is basically supplying the first fill free (compared to the other two).

    I thought that Tawny was just the Australian name for Tawny Port since sellers outside of Douro Valley in Portugal are no longer allowed to call it Port - the same way that we cannot sell Australian "Champagne" - it has to be sparkling wine. Perhaps I have got this wrong ?
     
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2020
  4. theSeekerr

    theSeekerr Member

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    Yes - hsvguy was referring to "Vintage Port", which is indeed a different drink more like a wine.

    While I mostly put tawny through my barrel, I do occasionally top it up with a bottle from the cleanskin Seppeltsfield VPs I have sitting around - it's not a great VP, thus the cleanskins, and the additional brightness can help perk up the blend a bit if it's leaning towards being over-oaked.
     
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2020
  5. andy01

    andy01 Member

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    Thanks for that - I did not know the difference.
     
  6. andy01

    andy01 Member

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    Well, the time has finally come. St Anne's Winery contacted me today saying that the 20L barrels are finally ready (they have been sitting full of port at the winery conditioning the barrels for the last 5 or 6 months apparently).

    I have ordered a 20L (the website link says sold out - I assume because they are offering to the people who were on the waiting list first), so hopefully in the next couple of weeks I get to play with it;

    https://stanneswinery.com.au/product/oak-barrel-full/ - it is $550 irrespective of which fortified you choose as the free fill, with free shipping.

    And I have selected 20L of their St Anne's Cellar Reserve Tawny (spent time old brandy barrels apparently) as the included fill with the barrel.

    https://stanneswinery.com.au/product/st-annes-cellar-reserve-tawny/ - it sells for $95 for 5L, but the 20L is included in the price of the barrel, so at their prices it includes $380 worth of this Tawny in the $550 barrel price (only $200 worth if you choose the St Anne's Classic Tawny which is $50 for 5L).

    Apparently it gets shipped as a newly emptied barrel (still wet from the winery fill), plus 4x 5L plastic jerry cans of the port or muscat of your choice.


    I have also ordered another 4x 5L of the cheaper St Anne's Classic Tawny for top-ups or blending, so I should be sorted for port for at least a couple of years :)

    https://stanneswinery.com.au/product/st-annes-classic-tawny/ - $50 for 5L


    I am thinking that I might do the first fill with 15L of the cheaper St Anne's Classic Tawny, and 4 or 5L of the St Anne's Cellar Reserve Tawny to fill the barrel - has anyone got any thoughts or suggestions on this ? I do also have a couple of bottles of port in the house including a McWilliams 10 yo and a Galway Pipe 12 yo. Is there any benefit to adding a shot of either to the barrel ?

    Thanks
    Colin
     
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2020
  7. eilsel

    eilsel Member

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    Sounds like the Barrel has been seasoned so some of the harsh oakyness should have mellowed (it can take several cycles to season). However, I would use the cheaper Classic Tawney for the first fill just to be on the safe side. Remember keep tasting regularly after the first month as your first fill can over oak very quickly if left too long. Draw off 5 litres or so when you think its improved sufficiently(compare with a reserved sample of the raw original fill) and always top up with a reasonable quality replacement of the same type. Trust your taste buds and you wont go wrong .

    Regards Eilsel
     
  8. andy01

    andy01 Member

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    Thanks. Sounds like you think that there is no benefit to adding some of the Cellar Reserve Tawny or a shot from the older bottled Tawny to the first fill ?

    Cheers
    Colin
     
  9. eilsel

    eilsel Member

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    I would be inclined to start topping up with 5ltrs of the Cellar Reserve Tawney after you have drawn off your first 4-5 litres for consumption (I bottle mine), this gives time for the addition to marry with the remaining matured Classic Tawney whilst you are consuming the first batch, then repeat process. (just my opinion i'm no where near an expert). I wouldn't experiment with adding the older bottles until you have reached some consistency with your batches so that you can detect what difference it makes.
     
  10. andy01

    andy01 Member

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    Makes sense, thanks.

    Colin
     
  11. andy01

    andy01 Member

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    An update.

    The 20L barrel from St Anne's Winery arrived. I am very happy with the barrel - it looks nicely finished with a old oak look/stain to it, and matt black hoops, nicely proportioned with a stainless steel tap and loose turned oak (probably Tassie oak) bung plug. The stand was pretty rough and ready - oak as well (either American white oak or Tassie oak, so decent timber, just the finishing/workmanship was poor), 25mm thick sides and dowels joining the two sides -the finish was pretty rough by my standards (I am a woodworker), so I wasn't happy with it and sanded it down and re-varnished it with polyurethane. This re-working obviously made it lighter in colour (it had been stained to match the barrel) but that is fine as it will darken with age. My guess is that the barrel was imported from Europe (made by a craftsman cooper there) and they got some "local" to knock up the stand and bung, but I might be wrong.

    The barrel was well packaged (bubble wrapped and cartoned) and they had drained the tawny from it and banged a cork into the bung hole to seal it to stop it from drying out. The certificate said that it had been filled with Original Tawny, which matched the smell from both cork and barrel.

    I have drawn off a bottle of the St Anne's Winery Original Tawny to keep as a reference sample, and poured the remaining 19.25L into the barrel which leaves about 60mm of ullage/headroom at the top (so it would easily take a full 20L). The Original Tawny actually isn't bad to drink right now, and hopefully that will improve in coming months. No signs of weeps or leaks from the barrel or tap. Quite a weighty beast.

    I also got the 20L of St Anne's Winery Cellar Reserve Tawny (which was the free fill that came with the barrel). I have drawn off a bottle of it as a reference sample as well. It sells from $32 a bottle or $95 / 5L at the winery. The cellar reserve has been matured in old Brandy barrels for a time.

    So all up I got the 20L barrel/stand/plug + 20L of Classic Tawny and 20L of Cellar Reserve Tawny, delivered to Brisbane for $750, which I didn't think was too bad. Should keep me in port for a while.

    The wife and I had a little tasting before dinner (inebriated before dinner :D) of some De Bortoli (4L box) tawny, the two St Anne's Tawny and some Brown Brothers Australian Tawny that I had in an open bottle.

    De Bortoli - quite drinkable, but no aftertaste or complexity, cost is $5.50/L.
    St Anne's Classic Tawny - very drinkable, a sort of chocolatey liquor aftertaste, very slightly medicinal taste now, cost is $10/L.
    St Anne's Cellar Reserve Tawny - very drinkable, also a sort of chocolatey liquor aftertaste, a slightly more potent flavour when breathed through (perhaps due to the ex-brandy barrels ?), cost is $19/L. I would not pay $32/bottle for it at the winery in it's current state.
    Brown Brothers Australian Tawny - nice, probably a bit smoother than any of the others, but the aftertaste didn't seem as complex - cost was about $16/bottle or ±$21.40/L

    And so, the port barrel journey begins :). I will try a sample in a month or so and see how it is going.

    To anyone looking at a barrel, I would recommend St Anne's Winery barrels (just don't look too hard at the stand, pr be prepared to re-finish it like I did) as I think that the price (especially if you choose the expensive Cellar Reserve as the free fill - I got $380 worth of "free" tawny with the $550 barrel cost, so the 20L barrel cost me $180) is good value and it seems to be a well made barrel and is pre-seasoned before you get it which gets rid of the seasoning process and uncertainty about leaks etc.

    Thanks for the additional comments and info over the last few months.

    Cheers
    Colin
     
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  12. eilsel

    eilsel Member

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    Happy Porting, may this prove to be a very worthwhile and rewarding hobby. Good review, very informative for other prospective dabblers. Keep us informed of your journey with this.
     
  13. hsvguy

    hsvguy Member

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    Good write up, i'd encourage you to look into Seppeltsfield if you want quality fortifieds (maybe a visit to the barossa once we're able to travel again)!
     
  14. OP
    OP
    Ma Baker

    Ma Baker Retired

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    That is definitely on my to do list
     
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  15. andy01

    andy01 Member

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    Thanks. The plan is to go Seppeltsfield for the next batch, which should be a long way off given I have 40L right now.

    I would love to go to the Barossa and spend a few days there, but it is a long way from Brisbane, so not a quick getaway - one day.
     
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  16. andy01

    andy01 Member

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    Update:

    It has now been 5½ weeks since the 20L of St Anne's Classic Tawny went into the barrel, and I tasted it last night. It has changed a surprising amount. I kept a bottle of the original Classic Tawny and compared them directly. I have had zero issues with barrel itself - no weeps, leaks etc, the stainless steel tap works perfectly with no leaks or drips.

    The original seems "smoother" by comparison but also quite "bland".

    The barrel port is showing some tannins (and the little "bite" that comes with them), and has a distinctive "oak sawdust" flavour (not unpleasant) - I do woodwork as a hobby and have made several items of furniture using American White Oak, and have restored a English Oak chest of drawers, and also have some more recent experience with Tassie Oak, so I have a good idea of what newly cut or sanded oak smells like. It seems to have a lot more character and depth than the original tawny.

    So, the million dollar question is - how far do I let it go before drawing off 5L of the barrel port and replacing it with 5L of fresh St Anne's Cellar Reserve (matured in old brandy barrels) tawny ? Do I do it relatively soon or wait until the barrel port is starting to taste really almost over-the-top (unpleasantly) oaky ?

    Thanks
    Colin
     
  17. eilsel

    eilsel Member

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    Dont let it go too far. The idea is that what you draw off is drinkable and enjoyable otherwise you will have to blend the draw off with raw to balance it.
     
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2020
  18. andy01

    andy01 Member

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    Thanks eilsel.

    I drew off just over 4L yesterday (back into a sterilised 5L plastic jerry can) and topped it up with a full 5L of the cellar reserve. So it has been 7 weeks so far.

    I will most likely blend the draw-off back into the barrel at a (much) later stage - it is quite drinkable but a touch "harsh". It certainly has more flavour and character than the original tawny, but the tannins are coming through a little too strong right now.

    Cheers
    Colin
     
  19. andy01

    andy01 Member

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    Leak !

    Strangely, after about 7 weeks my barrel seems to have developed a very slight leak - it has been pretty full with over 19.25L (of the 20L capacity). Things have been quite warm in Brisbane in recent weeks (up to 30°C inside), so it has warmed up a bit since I got the barrel in late October. The barrel was apparently full for 5-6 months at the winery (to condition it) and drained before sending it to me.

    I noticed a drop forming at the bottom of the non-tap end. I wiped everything down and it seems that I am getting a couple of minute weeps through the actual staves - I can't even see pinholes in the ends of the staves, but I can see a tiny amount of liquid forming a "drip" on the stave ends. These tiny drips obviously run down towards the bottom end of the barrel and form a larger drip.

    It has been 8 days now and the larger drip is quite noticeably "hanging" from the barrel, but not big enough yet to actually drip on to my bar counter top. At the current rate of leakage I might get a drip every week or two landing on the bar counter top - not a big deal (unless it gets worse of course), but it obviously shouldn't leak at all.

    Has anyone experienced this and have any comments on how to deal with it ? Will the leaks dry up eventually or get worse ?

    I did read in another forum about someone inserting what sounded like tiny wooden "toothpicks" into the pinholes to plug the holes - I am not sure that the holes I can sort of see (really need a magnifying glass) are big enough to stick something into them.

    I also read something about applying beeswax to the wood to seal it ?

    Thanks
    Colin
     
  20. hsvguy

    hsvguy Member

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    I'd just contact where you bought it from.

    My barrel after a few years developed a seep, but quickly gummed itself up, never had it physically drip though.
     

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