If you have ever had the pleasure of visiting a winery and tasting wine directly at the source where it is produced there is no better way to truly understand wine while creating such memorable moments. Your experience will step up a notch if you are able to go on a tour and get a behind the scenes look at all the important factors that come into play in taking a grape and turning it into the finished product that we all love and enjoy. There is so much to learn from understanding the climate, the land and soil in which the grapes grow all through way through harvesting the grapes to production, aging and bottling.

What many folks do not get to experience is the opportunity to drink wine straight from the barrel where the wines are currently aging. Barrel wine tasting is a unique experience that typically only a winemaker and limited folks taking part in the final production of the wine get to partake in. This is a regular part of a winemaker’s duties. They are able to see how the wine is progressing and when is the best opportunity to bottle it or blend it with other grapes.

Barrel wine tours are the perfect way for you to be able to get this exposure and put yourself in the winemaker’s shoes. Tasting wine from the barrel gives you the chance to taste the upcoming new vintages before they are released to the public and taste a wine in it’s youth. It gives you a sneak peak into what this wine could possibly become. How will it mature? What do you think this wine will taste like in 5, 10 or even 20 years? It’s all about prediction and assumptions at this stage and years later popping open some of those bottles to compare and see if you were right.

Barrels aren’t the only way that wines are aged as there are also stainless steel tanks, amphora, cement tanks, etc., but aging wine in barrels infuse elements into the wine such as vanilla, smokiness and spice. Winemakers will age wine in barrels as little as 3 to 6 months up to 24 to 36 months and beyond. It all depends upon the winemaker’s personal preference and the laws dictated by the wine regions in which they exist. Typically the longer a wine is aged in barrels the higher the price point due to the increased cost to the winery.

Around the world barrel wine tasting events take place every year where professionals in the wine trade get access to taste the wine from the barrels at least 1 year up to 18 months before it is released to the public. These barrel wine events are known as futures or en primeurs. This is when a lot of the wine professionals rate the wines releasing their scores and feedback to the public. It is a way to be able to buy these wines at a discounted rate before they have come onto the market. In doing so there is also the potential risk not knowing how the wine will evolve in the bottle over time.

For those of us not in the trade, barrel wine weekends and events held at wineries as well as private wine tours offering these barrel wine tastings allow us to play winemaker for a day. Plus, the ambiance of being in a wine cellar tasting wine from barrels is so enticing. Wine tasting is all about learning and even more so it is all about fun. Gather your friends, family and loved ones and get out for a day amongst the vines.