By Henri, French intern – As you know, we are in the middle of harvest and in the middle of Virginia Wine month. We have been very busy because, this year, we have a huge harvest!Virginia wine grape harvest

Actually, all the tanks are full and the musts have beautiful colors, aromas and smells. All the white grapes are picked but we still have red grapes (Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc) in the field. We have pressed and barreled five red wines. They will stay in these barrels for about 18 months. Every two weeks, we will do the ‘topping’, refilling the barrels to replace the evaporated wine.

Do you know how barrels adjust the flavor and composition of the wine? Actually, we have different kinds of barrels for all sorts of wine. We have four main criteria to choose a barrel:

  • wood
  • toast level
  • age
  • capacity

Barrels come from American Oak, French Oak and Hungarian Oak. Each oak brings different flavors to the wine: for a more full-bodied wine, the American oak works best. For a sweet wine, the French is the one you want.Virginia Wine Barrels

The toast level determines the level of exchange between oak and wine creating different flavors. There are four toasting possibilities: Light, Medium, Medium + and Heavy.  The winemaker makes the decision to use both new and old barrels to achieve just the right flavor combination. The newer barrels release more oak flavor than the older ones.

Finally, the size of the barrel provides the area of wood to be in contact with the wine, more the exchange, the bigger the flavor. At Doukenie, the barrels are a 60 gallon capacity (225 liters). We use French oak with a medium or medium + toast. The wines are not too strong, but with delicate and subtle flavors of black fruit, spices and sometimes caramel. The work of a winemaker is to maintain his barrels. We have to obstruct the holes with a wood insert, like a piece of chestnut wood, and tighten the barrel with iron Virginia wine barrel repairhoops. We repaired the barrels that you see in the photo, tightening the barrel with pieces of chestnut wood.

This is my last post and my last week here at Doukenie Winery. I am going back to Toulouse, France to finish my education. It was an amazing experience to be part of the Doukenie team. Thank you, Sebastien Marquet, for being a great teacher and mentor during three months. Thank you so much!  -Henri