After fermentation is completed and wine is racked several times to remove the largest solids, the young wine is usually rough, raw and “green” and needs to settle for a period of time. This aging can be done in neutral containers such as stainless steel, cement lined vats, old large casks, etc. or it can be done in small relatively new wood barrels which are not neutral, but which will influence the developing wine.
The oak wine barrel is one of the most recognizable symbols associated with wine. We have romanticized the barrel and the act of aging wine inside of it to such a degree, that after the barrels have been used for their intended purpose we often turn them into tables, benches, planters and even candle holders. Yet the reason we began aging wine in oak barrels in the first place was not intentional, but the result of a happy accident. For millennia, the clay amphora was the storage medium of choice for transporting wine.