Why bother with a barrel?
Oak adds a compelling complexity to wine. You should make sure the kind of wine you want to make is well suited for oak, since it is more expensive and more work. For example, just about any high tannin red wine will benefit. Many whites such as chardonnay or Sauvignon blanc will benefit as well. However, Riesling should be left alone. Oak barrels also have an aesthetic quality that other materials can’t match.
The Barrel Mill Premium Oak Barrels are made of smooth, premium Minnesota White Oak. Built by hand and toasted to perfection, we recommend these barrels for quality oak conditioning, and carry them in sizes ranging from 5 gallons all the way up to 30 gallons.
If you wish to oak your wine but can’t afford a barrel (or don’t have the space), Midwest also offers oak alternatives, such as oak spirals, oak cubes, and oak chips. Be very careful not to add too much or leave them in the wine too long as the surface to liquid ratio is quite high and therefore oaking is very quick. Sometimes this may only be equal to the time it takes to ferment your wine, depending on how oaky you like your wine and how much you put in. It is recommended that you closely follow a wine oaked in this fashion by tasting often.
An easy way to add oak flavor wine to just the degree that pleases your taste is to take a regular wine bottle, fill it half full of oak chips and add Vodka to fill the bottle. Let it set for a month or two. Drain off the liquid and keep it to flavor your wine. Experiment, using a tablespoon per gallon; if this is insufficient, keep adding a teaspoon until you reach the desired result. Make a note of the amount used for future reference.