Whiskey, Wine, Both?
New trend - using Wiskey Barrels to age Wine - Since 1887 Grant's Whiskey

A long, long time ago somebody - probably while staring despondently at a broken vessel and a river of spilled Cabernet Franc - realized that oak barrels were way better for containing wine than fragile clay amphoras. Eventually, oak barrels became the norm for aging wine, and the characteristics that oak imparts on the flavor of wine became desirable for many varietals. But barrels lose their oakiness after a few uses So vintners often sell used barrels to whiskey or bourbon distillers who appreciate the already seasoned wood.

Recently, somebody - probably inspired by a couple glasses of good bourbon or great wine or both - thought... Woah, what if we did it the other way around?

And so was born a flavor trend: wine aged in used whiskey barrels.

Now before anyone gets all wine-snooty and begins to drone on about propriety, purity, tradition, etc, let’s remember that there was a time when someone decided to dip potato chips in chocolate and people thought that guy was whacko. Not into chocolatey salty goodness? OK, how about sea salt and caramel? Maple syrup and bacon? Peanut butter and banana? Odd couples can go together beautifully.

Anyway, back to the topic: one of the more irreverant wine trends of recent years.

A handful of wineries like Robert Mondavi, Apothic, Jacob’s Creek and 1,000 Stories have experimented with storing wines in whiskey or bourbon barrels for at least part of the aging process and, as a result, have created some really interesting wines.

The bourbon or whiskey barrels share the flavors of the previous occupants with the new tenant. The resultant wines tend to be warm, very round and really rich in flavor with some distinctive undertones that - if you enjoy whiskey or bourbon - you’ll recognize and appreciate. Think of it as wine with a smooth whiskey soul, something you can really savor over a great steak in front of a roaring fire. The wines being used tend to be full bodied reds like Cabernet, Shiraz, and Zinfandel so that the spirit notes don’t overpower the varietal characteristics.

The trend is new. Its longevity is untested. But my hunch, and hope, is that it’s here to stay.

So, if you happen to come across a bottle of this spirity goodness next time you’re shopping for vino, do yourself a favor and give it a try. It’s worth tasting at least once, and you may decide that these “whiskey wines” should have a permanent slot in your wine cellar. 


~ Kay Syrah

Wine Country Guru Gal

 Official Blog