With the second pick in the 2012 Anything Mock Draught, K Dub selects:
Oak BarrelsWhen you picture the wine making process, what one thing comes to mind? Stomping grapes? Stainless fermentation vessels? Grapes growing on the vine? Well, you might. But being the homebrewer that I am, I think about barrel aging. Barrel aging (especially in the case of most red wines) is the longest part of the wine making process. I don't know how those winemaker guys do it, the constant reminder of ends on ends of stacks and rows of barrels every day. So much delicious liquid just waiting, aging, developing, improving and just waiting for that perfect moment to be bottled and shared with the masses. All thanks to magic that lies within the oak barrel.
So how does a barrel create all that flavor? Well, like most plants there are many variables, soil types, location, breed of plant, climate patterns, etc. On top of environmental factors that the tree goes through during its life, there are only man made factors that can affect a barrel's flavor such as toasting the barrel. So there are literally an unlimited number (well I'm sure J.R. could calculate an exact number) of variables that could affect the final flavor of barrel. And to add to it, no matter how hard the cooperage's try, there are always variations from barrel to barrel. It is common for brewers to have a barrel or two that don't taste right or just plain suck, so instead of blending those two barrels in small amounts with the rest of the bottles to get a higher yield (more bottles to sell), they have been known to dump the barrels.