Barrel aging 101

Some things just get better with age, and wine is often one of those things. We’re proud of how far our barrel program has come and it continues to grow! Curious about the ins and outs of what happens behind the barrel room doors? Welcome to Barrel Aging 101, where you’ll learn the basics of why we barrel age and how we go about it. Now read on, class is officially in session!

The why


So why do we barrel age? Flavor is a big reason! Barrels have two main functions, to add flavor and allow wine to mature its flavors. Whether a wine is suitable for barrel aging or not all depends on the grape it comes from. Grapes with more tannins (like red grapes) can really benefit from barrel aging as it will change and improve the flavor of the wine over time.

Wine style

Aging wine is a stylistic process, so each winery does things a little differently. As a winemaker gains experience with barrel aging, they figure out what produces the style of wine they desire and hone their process. Every kind of barrel used for aging is unique with various compounds found in the type of wood used. Different products tend to go better with different kinds of barrels; through experimentation wineries will determine what works best for producing their specific style of wine. At CCW, we have found that many of the wines in our barrel program work best with Minnesota Oak, which produces more vanillin – bringing out more vanilla, cinnamon, and anise flavors in our wines.

The how

The wine goes through a journey before it gets to the barrels. Every year, the road to the barrel room looks like this:

More reds than whites are barrel aged as they have more tannins that come from skins, seeds, and stems that they are fermented with. With white wine, usually the juice is pressed out of skins before fermentation. Typically the more tannin that exists, the longer a wine can age for. Wines that we typically barrel age include:

  • Marquette
  • Petite Pearl
  • Crimson Pearl
  • Merlot
  • Zinfandel
  • Malbec
  • Barbera
  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Petite Syrah
  • Frontenac
  • Chardonnay

Depending on the kind of wine, it will usually age for different amounts of time. For instance, Marquette and Crimson Pearl generally age for under a year, while Cabernet Sauvignon can age for up to two years.

Barrel maintenance

The CCW barrel room has 11 wines in 240 different barrels. Kept at a balmy 62 degrees year round with 65% humidity, fluctuations are avoided at all costs. Every month the winemakers check on the barrels to see how the wine is progressing. They taste test what’s been aging and make adjustments as necessary. Then, they top off the barrels with more wine to replace any that has evaporated since the last check.

Aged to perfection

Our barrel program produces wines that are well-balanced. The ultimate determination of whether a wine is done aging or needs more time is by taste. Depending on what’s desired, some barrels are mixed with others to create the final product. When the winemakers are pleased with the outcome, they pump out, filter, and bottle it. Every barrel produces 300 bottles of wine. Once packaged, the wine continues to age in its bottle.

Barrel aging requires patience and persistence, but the result is something well worth the wait.

Russ Funk, Head Wine Maker

300 Series Wine

So now that you know the basics of barrel aging, it’s time to taste some of the goodness for yourself! Our 300 Label Series are a new line of wines here at CCW that are reserved for the best of the best. They are all unique – each taken from a single barrel, chosen for its exemplary expression of a particular grape. There are four in our most recent release:

Bourbon Barrel Merlot

2019 – Merlot aged in a used bourbon barrel. Smooth, rich, and layered. Just enough bourbon flavor to taste. American.


2016 – 66% Petite Pearl, 21% Mystery, and 13% Crimson Pearl. Estate – Alexandria Lakes.

Prairie Star

2017 – White wine (similar to Chardonnay) aged to perfection in a delicate French oak barrel for over a year. Minnesota.

Russian Barrel Marquette

2016 – Single designation vineyard, Minnesota Marquette aged in 100% new Russian oak barrels for 15 months. Minnesota.

The 300 Label Series wines are available exclusively in the CCW Tasting Room, so you’ll want to plan a field trip now that class is dismissed. Just like the barrel-aging process itself, we can promise you these remarkable wines are worth your while.

Be the first

Sign up for exclusive alerts about new wines/beers, events, discounts and more.
Something went wrong. Please check your entries and try again.

Other Posts You May Enjoy


Wine lovers: Why you need to try the 300 Series

The 300 Series -- A story of perfection. Picture our winemakers carefully tasting hundreds of barrels of wine....

Easy 15-minute ramen + wine pairing

We've all been there before. It's 5:00pm on a Tuesday and you're standing in the kitchen wondering what...
photo shows start of the trails at bold north cellars

Outdoor trails coming to Bold North Cellars

Let's give it up for Minnesota. An outdoor wonder. Each part of our state has it's own unique...

About the Author

Kaiya Johnson

Kaiya Johnson


Sign up for exclusive alerts about new wines/beers, events, discounts and more.