Wine Barrel

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This 225 liter (60 gallon) barrel is made of French oak and was used to age red wine at Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars (SLWC) in California’s Napa Valley in the mid-1990s. Manufactured by the French cooperage Seguin Moreau, in Merpins, it was one of hundreds stacked in a large storage room, where red wines were aged before SLWC’s cave was completed in 2000.
Cooperage is an integral part of winemaking. Wooden barrels typically hold 50 to 60 gallons of wine, while casks are larger, including some that hold 1,000 gallons. The wooden staves allow a small amount of air to slowly enter the wine, which many believe imparts some desirable flavor and aroma characteristics to the wine as it ages. Before Prohibition, redwood and American oak were typically used for aging wine in California. As the industry was rebuilt after Repeal, California vintners turned to France and experimented with storing their red wines in small oak barrels instead of large casks. They experimented with oak barrels for whites as well, which led to some robustly oaky Chardonnays in the 1980s and 1990s. Many now agree that limiting whites to a few months in oak produces a more desirable result.
While French oak is still preferred among many winemakers, some have found that oak from Hungary or various parts of the United States lend a different but pleasing character to wine.
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Work and Industry: Agriculture
FOOD: Transforming the American Table 1950-2000
Food: Transforming the American Table 1950-2000
Exhibition Location
National Museum of American History
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Physical Description
wood, oak (french) (overall material)
metal (overall material)
manufactured (overall production method/technique)
overall: 95 cm x 57 cm; 37 13/32 in x 22 7/16 in
National Museum of American History
Object Name
barrel, wine with tracking sheet , bung, and 4 barrel chocks