New port barrel help

Anything to do with Port.
barkerboy
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New port barrel help

Post by barkerboy » 10:25 Mon 01 Sep 2014

Hi all

I recently won a new port barrel from my local RSL. It's 16 litres and came with 15 litres of port and 1 litre of brandy already inside it.

When I went in to pick it up the guy I got it off suggested three things to me.

He said :
1. Don't ever let it (the barrel) get less than half full.
2. Don't bother putting expensive port in it, cheap port will "absorb" flavours from the wood and will become flavourful.
3. Don't put the same brand in all the time, mix it up to get interesting mixes of flavours.

Within 3 weeks of getting the barrel, and before I needed to put anything in it I had two separate friends refute all three of these suggestions.

After looking around on the web I didn't find many answers and so I came you you people for advice.

Do I follow the prompting of my friends or the man at the RSL?

Barkerboy

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DRT
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Re: New port barrel help

Post by DRT » 12:44 Mon 01 Sep 2014

Welcome to :tpf:

Where are you in the world, and what is an RSL?

I can't think of any good reason why they would have put a bottle of brandy in the cask. The 15 bottles of port would have benefited much more from a 16th bottle of port rather than more alcohol content and a brandy which will have added a different flavour to the blend. The "brandy" used in Port is neutral and isn't really brandy as we know it.

In answer to the specific advice you were given:

1. Don't ever let it (the barrel) get less than half full.
Good advice. The more air there is in the barrel the more quickly the wine will evaporate and oxidise.

2. Don't bother putting expensive port in it, cheap port will "absorb" flavours from the wood and will become flavourful.
Bad advice. Good Port can be turned into bad Port. bad Port will always remain bad Port and might even get worse. Do not put anything in the barrel that you wouldn't be happy drinking straight out of the bottle.

3. Don't put the same brand in all the time, mix it up to get interesting mixes of flavours.
Bad advice. You are highly unlikely to stumble across a blend that is an improvement on its constituent parts. Port blending is a skill that takes the best part of a lifetime to learn. Making it up as you go along is likely to turn good Port into average or bad Port.

Best of luck!
"The first duty of Port is to be red"
Ernest H. Cockburn

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jdaw1
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Re: New port barrel help

Post by jdaw1 » 15:21 Mon 01 Sep 2014

This whole question is strange to me. Are these barrels sold to dispense port (presumably American), or to age it? Please post a link to the product.
DRT wrote:2. Don't bother putting expensive port in it, cheap port will "absorb" flavours from the wood and will become flavourful.
Bad advice. Good Port can be turned into bad Port. bad Port will always remain bad Port and might even get worse. Do not put anything in the barrel that you wouldn't be happy drinking straight out of the bottle.
If you start with something good, don’t tinker with it, just enjoy its porty goodness. If you start with something bad, well, the worst that can happen is that it remain undrinkable. So I disagree with the quoted poster.
DRT wrote:3. Don't put the same brand in all the time, mix it up to get interesting mixes of flavours.
Bad advice. You are highly unlikely to stumble across a blend that is an improvement on its constituent parts. Port blending is a skill that takes the best part of a lifetime to learn. Making it up as you go along is likely to turn good Port into average or bad Port.
For much the same reasons, if you start with rubbish, rolling the dice can’t hurt.

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DRT
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Re: New port barrel help

Post by DRT » 15:51 Mon 01 Sep 2014

I was assuming that the intended use was to store, age and subsequently dispense nice Port.

If the intended use is what JDAW seems to believe it is - to store bad Port hoping that a miracle happens while it is in there - then it is hard to argue with JDAW's logic.

But I would advise you not to buy bad Port in the hope that JDAW proves to be correct :wink:
"The first duty of Port is to be red"
Ernest H. Cockburn

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RonnieRoots
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Re: New port barrel help

Post by RonnieRoots » 03:25 Tue 02 Sep 2014

Why would one buy a good bottle of port to put it in a barrel and see it getting worse? I'm with Julian on that one. And well, if you are willing to buy 15 litres of bad port, my best advice would be to use that money to buy a couple of good bottles. You'll have so much more fun.

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Re: New port barrel help

Post by DaveRL » 14:22 Tue 02 Sep 2014

Returned and Services League of Australia? There are a lot of Australian references to port barrels.

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AHB
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Re: New port barrel help

Post by AHB » 18:59 Tue 02 Sep 2014

Another reason why you don't let the barrel get more than half empty is that the barrel is that the wood of the barrel must remain wet in order to remain watertight. If you let the wood dry out by running the barrel to nearly empty, you'd better wear boots when you next fill it up.

And if you keep topping the barrel up you are effectively running a solera style system. For goodness sake, don't put something into that which is significantly worse than everything else you have already put into it otherwise you could ruin 15 litres of port! You also need to quality control what goes into the barrel - make sure that what you are about to put in has not been contaminated by TCA, volatile acidity or a bacterial infection or you could end up with a big disappointment.

And if you ever need to empty the barrel out completely - for example to wash it - fill it with water or something while you are waiting to refill it with port.
Top Ports in 2019 (so far): Cockburn 1947 and Quinta do Noval Nacional 2017
2018 Ports of the year: São Leonardo 1927 White Port (Bottled 2018), Quinta do Noval Nacional 1994

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Re: New port barrel help

Post by Andy Velebil » 13:53 Wed 03 Sep 2014

AHB wrote:
And if you ever need to empty the barrel out completely - for example to wash it - fill it with water or something while you are waiting to refill it with port.
Which you will need to do. As eventually it will start gathering "Lees" on the bottom which if not cleaned out from time to time will cause even good Port to taste not so good anymore.

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DRT
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New port barrel help

Post by DRT » 20:21 Wed 03 Sep 2014

Bakerboy,

Have we convinced you that this is a generally bad idea yet? ;-)
"The first duty of Port is to be red"
Ernest H. Cockburn

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Re: New port barrel help

Post by DaveRL » 20:43 Wed 03 Sep 2014

If I had a port barrel with port and brandy already in it I'd give it a go. I'd follow the RSL guy's advice. I don't think the quality will shake the earth, but you'll have fun and learn how it works. Drink some, and it you like the liquid that comes out more the port you fill it up with, you're onto a winner. If you don't like it better then drink it up, give it away, or throw a party. Let us know how it goes!

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AHB
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Re: New port barrel help

Post by AHB » 08:11 Thu 04 Sep 2014

DRT wrote:Bakerboy,

Have we convinced you that this is a generally bad idea yet? ;-)
I'm not saying it's a bad idea. If I had the time I might try something like this. I'd probably use a Ruby Reserve as my base wine and see how it mellowed and matured over time.
Top Ports in 2019 (so far): Cockburn 1947 and Quinta do Noval Nacional 2017
2018 Ports of the year: São Leonardo 1927 White Port (Bottled 2018), Quinta do Noval Nacional 1994

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jdaw1
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Re: New port barrel help

Post by jdaw1 » 10:02 Thu 04 Sep 2014

DRT wrote:Have we convinced you that this is a generally bad idea yet? ;-)
barkerboy wrote:I recently won a new port barrel from my local RSL.
If he were thinking of buying this barrel, then DRT would be correct. But he ‘won’ it (we ask not whether he chose the prize). Given that he has it, what should he do?

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DRT
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Re: New port barrel help

Post by DRT » 10:27 Thu 04 Sep 2014

jdaw1 wrote:
DRT wrote:Have we convinced you that this is a generally bad idea yet? ;-)
barkerboy wrote:I recently won a new port barrel from my local RSL.
If he were thinking of buying this barrel, then DRT would be correct. But he ‘won’ it (we ask not whether he chose the prize). Given that he has it, what should he do?
Fair. I think he should drink some of what is in it. If he likes it he should top it up from time to time using good (but not excellent) quality Port. An unfiltered LBV would do the trick. If he doesn't like what is currently in the barrel he should pour it down the sink or cook with it. Under no circumstances would it be a good idea to try to improve it by adding better Port.
"The first duty of Port is to be red"
Ernest H. Cockburn

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Re: New port barrel help

Post by AHB » 13:36 Thu 04 Sep 2014

DRT wrote:Under no circumstances would it be a good idea to try to improve it by adding better Port.
I whole-heartedly agree with this.
Top Ports in 2019 (so far): Cockburn 1947 and Quinta do Noval Nacional 2017
2018 Ports of the year: São Leonardo 1927 White Port (Bottled 2018), Quinta do Noval Nacional 1994

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jdaw1
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Re: New port barrel help

Post by jdaw1 » 14:13 Thu 04 Sep 2014

DRT wrote:I think he should drink some of what is in it. If he likes it he should top it up from time to time using good (but not excellent) quality Port. An unfiltered LBV would do the trick. If he doesn't like what is currently in the barrel he should pour it down the sink or cook with it. Under no circumstances would it be a good idea to try to improve it by adding better Port.
Fair. Except that he should cook with it only if it is slightly bad. If it is good, drink it. If it is very bad, don’t ruin the food.

Barkerboy: please do tell us what you do with it, and how well it works.

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Re: New port barrel help

Post by griff » 17:06 Fri 05 Sep 2014

DaveRL wrote:Returned and Services League of Australia? There are a lot of Australian references to port barrels.
Bingo! AKA "the arey". Haven't heard it called "the rissole" but apparently another moniker. There is usually one in most towns and suburbs. These days many are plastic casinos full of poker machines.

With respect to the question asked by the OP, check out the Auswine forum. There is a current thread on this topic.

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Re: New port barrel help

Post by jdaw1 » 18:24 Fri 05 Sep 2014

griff wrote:With respect to the question asked by the OP, check out the Auswine forum.
If you mean forum.auswine.com.au, I can’t see the thread. Please post a link, ideally from each to the other.

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Re: New port barrel help

Post by griff » 13:34 Sat 06 Sep 2014

jdaw1 wrote:
griff wrote:With respect to the question asked by the OP, check out the Auswine forum.
If you mean forum.auswine.com.au, I can’t see the thread. Please post a link, ideally from each to the other.
I have cut out the middleman and shall link to the advice mentioned in the Auswine forum thread. It is from the website of a fortified wine producer in the Barossa. Decent fortifieds too.


http://liebichwein.com.au/category/home-barrel-advice/

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JacobH
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Re: New port barrel help

Post by JacobH » 21:53 Tue 14 Oct 2014

I bought a barrel about a year ago to experiment with ageing some Port at home. I rather liked the idea of recreating some of the old English tawnies when pipes were left in warehouses and homes after shipping. I also thought it would be a good mechanism to allow me to pour a glass a Port without opening a bottle if it looked like I wouldn’t be able to finish the latter in time.

Since I hadn’t found the Liebich website, I went for a 3-litre new wood barrel. The tannins on the new wood were incredible so it spent a good few weeks full of frequently-changing water to take the worst of it off. I should probably then have matured some table wine or spirit in it but remembering a South African Port AHB brought to a tasting years ago which had been matured in new oak since the winemaker ran out of old barrels, I thought it wouldn’t do it much harm to forge ahead.

I used four bottles of the Symington 2008 LBV produced for Waitrose (since it was on special offer at the time). The Port was stored in my kitchen to get a proper “London bake” and was raked once (when the spigot broke and I was suffering a fruit-fly infestation). It has now had just over a year in the barrel. Calculated by weight, it appears that the Angel’s Share is a generous 25%-30% since I am down to about 2 litres of Port. I think my current plan is to drink a further litre or so and then refresh the blend.

So...what does the garrafeira perculiar taste like?

The colour is still deep red, but I think a bit lighter than other LBVs from 2008 would be. It fades to a purple rim with a little bit of brown mixed in. On the nose, the new oak is rather dominant. There is perhaps a touch of vanilla, too, if I am being generous, with a fruity backbone that is hard to pin down. In the mouth, again the oak is strong and dominant. It begins in a slightly smoky way. There is then a good mixture of fresh and a little dried red fruit, followed by some more vanilla and a moderate aftertaste.

It is perfectly drinkable as it is, and perhaps moving in the “refreshed tawny” direction. The question will mostly be if I can move it away from the new oak in a gentle way without restarting. We shall see...
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jdaw1
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Re: New port barrel help

Post by jdaw1 » 22:10 Tue 14 Oct 2014

Compared to the alternative — opening 8ish year old LBVs as and when needed — was it worth the trouble?

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Re: New port barrel help

Post by AHB » 09:26 Wed 15 Oct 2014

JacobH wrote:...it appears that the Angel’s Share is a generous 25%-30% since I am down to about 2 litres of Port...
Is this an Angel who has had the same problem as Alex Kilbey when he tried to find his bottle of Vesuvio 1994? Does the Angel sneak into the kitchen late at night with his glass?

Or are you really serious - evaporation of 25-30%. That's a pretty poor barrel surely, or perhaps a very dry kitchen atmosphere.
Top Ports in 2019 (so far): Cockburn 1947 and Quinta do Noval Nacional 2017
2018 Ports of the year: São Leonardo 1927 White Port (Bottled 2018), Quinta do Noval Nacional 1994

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Re: New port barrel help

Post by LGTrotter » 12:25 Wed 15 Oct 2014

AHB wrote:Or are you really serious - evaporation of 25-30%. That's a pretty poor barrel surely, or perhaps a very dry kitchen atmosphere.
I think it is more likely to be the smallness of the barrel, giving a larger surface area of port in contact with the barrel. The madeira solution to this used to be painting the barrel to slow evapouration. I could not recommend it as there may be problems with the paint affecting the port.

Where did you get your barrel?

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Re: New port barrel help

Post by RAYC » 12:39 Wed 15 Oct 2014

New wood also absorbs a lot more at the outset
LGTrotter wrote: I think it is more likely to be the smallness of the barrel, giving a larger surface area of port in contact with the barrel.
Is this what you meant to say? A larger barrel will have a larger surface area of port in contact with wood. Presumably this is about ratio of surface area to volume.
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Re: New port barrel help

Post by LGTrotter » 12:56 Wed 15 Oct 2014

RAYC wrote:New wood also absorbs a lot more at the outset
LGTrotter wrote: I think it is more likely to be the smallness of the barrel, giving a larger surface area of port in contact with the barrel.
Is this what you meant to say? A larger barrel will have a larger surface area of port in contact with wood. Presumably this is about ratio of surface area to volume.
I knew I should never have tried to sound knowledgeable about numbers. :wink: Small barrels lose proportionally more through evapouration is what I was trying to say.

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JacobH
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Re: New port barrel help

Post by JacobH » 11:53 Mon 03 Nov 2014

jdaw1 wrote:Compared to the alternative — opening 8ish year old LBVs as and when needed — was it worth the trouble?
An interesting question. In terms of quality of Port: no. In terms of “is this a diverting thing to do”: yes. A bit like whether it is ever worth opening a bottle of tawny port when one can open a bottle of ruby / vintage instead ;-)
AHB wrote:
JacobH wrote:...it appears that the Angel’s Share is a generous 25%-30% since I am down to about 2 litres of Port...
Is this an Angel who has had the same problem as Alex Kilbey when he tried to find his bottle of Vesuvio 1994? Does the Angel sneak into the kitchen late at night with his glass?

Or are you really serious - evaporation of 25-30%. That's a pretty poor barrel surely, or perhaps a very dry kitchen atmosphere.
I think there is truth in both these possibilities! A bit like the 12-bottle case laid down for a christening which becomes a 10-bottle case by the time of the 21st birthday!
RAYC wrote:New wood also absorbs a lot more at the outset
I hadn’t thought of that, but that must be a significant factor, too.
LGTrotter wrote:I knew I should never have tried to sound knowledgeable about numbers. :wink: Small barrels lose proportionally more through evapouration is what I was trying to say.
Trying, desperately, to remember some maths: the volume of a barrel is proportional to the square of its radius, whilst the surface area is proportional to the radius alone?
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