Port Barrel Instructions

Please read the instructions carefully to get the best results from your American Oak Port Barrel

Preparing the Barrel

Important Note: Never immerse the barrel in water as this will turn it black.

  • Fill the barrel with water as the barrel has been empty since manufacture and the oak could have dried out.
  • If the barrel leaks, leave the water in it for the oak to “take up” moisture and stop the leaking. Do not keep the water in the barrels for longer than four days
  • Remember that patience is necessary at this stage and is the key to successfully preparing the barrel.
  • Empty the barrel and let it drain completely.
  • Pour into the barrel a quarter of a bottle of Old Tawny Port, roll it around several times and empty it out.
  • Fill the barrel with the port you have selected or blended.
  • If the barrel still leaks, empty the wine out, refill it with water and leave until the leaking stops. In most instances this will not be necessary.

Check your new barrel

Before using your new port barrel, you can do some simple checks. The tap should start easily and be screwed in tight to the face of the barrel. After the initial inspection for chips and cracks, fill your barrel with water, and let it sit to soak.

If your barrel does leak initially, do not panic; the oak expands as it absorbs water, which should plug all leaks.

Pour out the soaking water and rinse your barrel several times with clean water.

You may choose to initially cure your barrel with brandy, and let it sit for three days. Some people prefer the taste of the resulting product, but it is not necessary.

You can now fill your barrel with ports of your choice. As is standard practice with the blending of most fortified wines, the aim is to get a broad range of ages in the one mix. Tawny ports, although cheaper, are already mixes of old and new ports, blended by the winemaker. The ideal situation would be to find some nice older vintage port and blend it with some moderately aged vintage port followed by some young port.

The young port will often be the toughest to find, but a snoop around your nearest warm climate wine region (Swan Valley, Rutherglen) could find you some good value young port.

The best blend always comes from the best ingredients, remember you can never salvage something undrinkable. Blending with brandy, whisky and wine should be avoided with good ingredients, but feel free to experiment with cheaper batches.

Always keep your barrel topped up. Oxygen is the greatest killer of any wine’s potential, even ports. While it happens much slower in fortified wines, there is a marked difference between fresh and oxidised ports. Oxygen turns ethanol into acetaldehyde, a key culprit in hangovers. So letting oxygen in gives you less alcohol, less flavour and more hangover!

Store your port for as long as possible, while keeping an eye on the ullage (air space). Ideal storage conditions are 17-18°C and 70% humidity. The dryer the environment, the faster the evaporation. As ethanol has a lower boiling point to water, the ethanol will evaporate fastest. If the alcohol content gets too low, the risk of spoilage increases.

If you ever have a sneaky taste, be sure to top your barrel up. Best to buy a resealable 200ml wine bottle and take a full bottle sample to try every now and then. That way you can have your barrel topped up and show all your guests your master blending skills.