A bit of a curious question: I recently acquired a very small oak barrel. Being small with the volume to oak ratio I have already aged all my wine in the barrel. Now I know the best way to keep an oak barrel conditioned is to keep it filled with wine, but I don't have enough of that. I also would rather not use a sulfer stick for such a small barrel. So I'm considering just buying some inexpensive vodka and filling the barrel. I figured that the vodka is quite sterile and, therefore, should keep the barrel bacteria free. Also, vodka is fairly flavorless and odorless and shouldn't damage the barrel. The only negative I can see is leaching out the oak flavoring, but the barrel at medium plus could use some mellowing...Does anyone know if there are any negatives to doing this?



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Comment by tristan johnson on July 23, 2010 at 4:43pm
Stephan -

The biggest issue is the one that you listed, leaching of the oak flavor and aroma. Also, cheaper vodkas are less "flavorless and odorless" than you might think. There is always a risk of carrying some of that flavor, or some of the fusels that are typically present in cheap booze, over into the wine.

I would suggest one of the following:

1) Fill the barrel with water and use citric acid and sulfite to keep the water bacteria free. This water will lose sulfite over time, so it is best to top it off periodically.
2) Just go ahead and burn the sulfur, just don't burn as much!



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