Custom Barrel Profiling #2

Custom Barrel Profiling

Changing Toasting Profiles to Customize Barrels for Rodney Strong Vineyards’ Pinot Noir Program
Rodney Strong Vineyards


The objective is to compare new, custom profiles and commercial profiles and to create a special toasting profile for Rodney Strong Pinot noir wines.


This experiment includes six barrel profiles. One was the competitor’s barrel product and another was a World Cooperage special profile created for Rodney Strong Pinot noir. The others were existing World Cooperage barrels, including one special profile that had recently been created for another program.

Rodney Strong winemakers like the attributes of a competitor’s barrel in their Pinot noir program. This experiment could have been one of emulating the competitor’s barrel; it was not, it went one stage further.

Figure 1 shows a sensory profile of the competitor’s barrel as it presents itself when used for the Rodney Strong Pinot noir and it also shows a slightly different profile. This was the sensory description of the winemaker’s preferred barrel. It is slightly different from the competitor’s barrel in that it imparts a little more spice, a little more vanillin, less tannin, and a little less toastiness.

Figure 1. Sensory diagrams of the competitor’s barrel and preferred barrel for inclusion in the Rodney Strong Pinot noir program

The Wine

Producer: Rodney Strong Vineyards
Year: 2003
Variety: Pinot noir
Vineyard: Janes Vineyard
Crush Date: September 17, 2003

Harvest Data

  • TA: 0.741 g/100 mL tartaric acid
  • Brix: 26.5
  • pH: 3.36
  • Prior to fermenting added: Approximately 30 ppm SO2 as Potassium
    Metabisulfite, 1oz/ton Color Pro enzyme
  • Days of fermentation: 7
  • Fermented with: RC 212 yeast
  • During fermentation added: 2 lbs. Superfood, 3 lbs. DAP and 8.345 lbs. tartaric acid/1000 gal
  • End of fermentation added: n/a
  • Barrel Preparation: 5-to-10 gal. Cold water to rinse. Stand on each head for 4-5 hours.
    Drain and rinse with hot water for 1 min.

Wine Analysis as of March 31, 2004

  • Alcohol: 14.26% volume
  • TA: 0.57 g/100 mL tartaric acid
  • Volatile Acidity: 0.040 g/100mL acetic acid
  • Free Sulfur Dioxide: 21 mg/L SO2
  • Total Sulfur Dioxide: 43 mg/L SO2
  • pH: 3.53
  • Residual Sugar: 0.03

Oak Data

Source French oak
Wood Age: 24 months
Toast Level: Heavy
Bending Technique: Fire
Size 65 gallons

Trial Execution

Sample Size: 4 barrel replicates of each variable
Oak Contact Time: 6 months and 7 days
First Fill: October 20, 2003
Bottling Date: April 27, 2004

The Trial

Competitor’s barrel
T.W. Boswell Legacy with Hickory toast
T.W. Boswell Legacy
T.W. Boswell Côte d’Or

Results and Discussion

Sensory Analysis
Table 1 shows the analysis of wines from these barrels. Results are in mgL-1 (parts per million) in
the wine on an ‘as-is’ basis.


Figure 2 shows a 3-D overview of the data evaluation.

Figure 2. Overview (principal components analysis) of the analysis of the six Pinot noir wines

Inspection of Figure 2 shows that the competitor’s barrel and the new special toast barrel (code name WCC P15) are quite separate from the other barrels and close to each other. Figures 3 to 6 illustrate the vanillin, toastiness, spice (4-methyl guaiacol), and ellagic acid levels.

Figure 3. Vanillin in the Pinot noir wines from the various barrels (in parts per million)

Figure 3 shows that the new special toast imparted a little more vanillin to the wine than the competitor’s barrel, although both were lower than the Legacy barrels.

In Figure 4 the desired small reduction in toastiness is shown.


Figure 4. Hmf and furfural in the Pinot noir wines from the various barrels (in parts per million)

The levels of 4-methyl guaiacol (spice) are shown in Figure 5.


Figure 5. 4-methyl furfural in the Pinot noir wines from the various barrels (in parts per million)

Figure 6 shows a slightly elevated level of ellagic acid, indicating a little more tannin breakdown in the special toast barrel. However, this conclusion requires a similar amount of tannin in the oak used by World Cooperage as in the competitor’s stave wood.

Figure 6. Ellagic acid in the Pinot noir wines from the various barrels (in parts per million)



These results suggest that the ‘dream’ profile had been realized in this new special toast. Table 2 shows the extent of the difference in the key compounds between the competitor’s barrel and special toast WCC P15 barrels.

Tasting Results

Preferences Total
1st Choice % Count
Competitor’s Barrel 16% 12 77
World Cooperage P3 17% 13 77
World Cooperage P15 21% 16 77
T.W. Boswell Côte d’Or 14% 11 77
T.W. Boswell Legacy 16% 12 77
T.W. Boswell Legacy Hickory 17% 13 77
Preferences Total
2nd Choice % Count
Competitor’s Barrel 14% 11 80
World Cooperage P3 19% 15 80
World Cooperage P15 18% 14 80
T.W. Boswell Côte d’Or 19% 15 80
T.W. Boswell Legacy 13% 10 80
T.W. Boswell Legacy Hickory 19% 15 80
Preferences Total
Last Choice % Count
Competitor’s Barrel 20% 16 80
World Cooperage P3 16% 13 80
World Cooperage P15 10% 8 80
T.W. Boswell Côte d’Or 19% 15 80
T.W. Boswell Legacy 16% 13 80
T.W. Boswell Legacy Hickory 19% 15 80
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