An Ode to the Wine Barrel

Wednesday, 26 December, 2012
Rich Moran, St. Helena Star
Pity the poor wine barrel. A beautiful oak barrel is the keeper of the valley’s nectar one day; and, once used, too quickly sent to unknown exile.
Used wine barrels are like nuclear waste — no one is really sure what to with them. New wine barrels cost a ton of money.

As any winemaker will tell you, a new barrel can be had for about the same price as a new BMW. When multiplied by the number of barrels required, you could buy a BMW dealership. Like that new BMW, wine barrels depreciate quickly once used. Fortunately, BMWs are not turned into planters and flower pots after a year or two.

The only thing that might depreciate faster than a wine barrel is a fancy wall calendar after Jan. 2 each year. Based on roadside signs all over the wine country, it looks like over the course of a few years, wine barrels go from $1,500 per barrel to somewhere between $20 and free. That is real depreciation.

It is a tale for the ages: When it comes to losing value, nothing compares to wine barrels. But how to retain any value in the barrels has been a dilemma for centuries.

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