Wine barrels are getting a new lease of life thanks to the introduction of dry ice in the cleaning process.
Wine stored in oak barrels absorbs almost all the aromas and flavours the barrel has in the first two years.
After that, the barrels are only used for inferior wines or are replaced.
According to Messer’s On Air magazine, it is now possible to give such barrels a new lease of life by using dry ice to remove as much of the top layer as possible.
Once the top layer is removed, the wood is once again exposed and the process of infusion of flavours from the wood into the wine can re-start.
The treatment also opens up the wood fibres, thereby increasing the surface area that comes into contact with the wine, allowing it to absorb even more flavour.
Wine-growers who have used the method are enthusiastic; the dry ice is effective at removing bacteria, fungi, salt crystals and wine residues, and cleaning costs come to less than 10% of the price of a new barrel.