Zemplén Barrel Care

It is critical to take good care of your barrel.

It is recommended to examine each barrel upon delivery.

Harford must be notified immediately of any barrels damaged during transit.


It is the responsibility of the customer to properly store, soak and
swell the barrel prior to use, and to use the barrel in a standard wine making method.

Keep the barrels wrapped in plastic films and store them in a dark
and cool, 55°F and 80% humid environment, in the absence of moving air currents.
Protect the barrels from UV rays, covering them with tarp to prevent unnecessary exposure.

Oak barrels will not cause any problems when properly maintained.


Each barrel pressure tested at the cooperage to ensure water tightness.

Signs of dryness on the outside of the barrel (loose hoops, gaps between staves or headboards, and looseness in the heads) could be the result of a long, hot container ride, storage in warehouse or low humidity places.

Neither is a cause for concern, but requires tightening the hoops and longer time of water soaking prior to use.

Hot or warm water:

Tighten the hoops if necessary.
A new barrel needs to be swelled with chlorine free water to seal itself.
Fill it with 1/10th its volume of hot water. (180 °F).
Tightly insert a bung in, slosh the water around, then rotate it from side to side and allow the water to cool.
If there are no leaks present and there is a vacuum when the bung is removed the barrels is liquid tight.

If a vacuum is not present:

Pound the hoops towards the middle of the barrel using hoop driver, pulling the staves together, tightening the pressure.
Stand the barrel upright then fill the barrel with 1/10th its volume of warm water. (90-110 °F).
Turn it on its side and roll it in order to completely wet the inside, than stand it on the other head. After 4-5 hours, turn it to upright position again.
Check the barrel next day, if some leakage is apparent, repeat the procedure.
Otherwise fill it with wine.

Cold water:

Tighten the hoops if necessary.
Fill up the barrel with cool chlorine free water.
Let the water sit in it until the barrel seals itself.
When the barrel completely dried on the outside and shows no leakage of water, drain it and fill it up with wine.

Hot steam:

  • We do not recommend to use hot steam trying to swell the barrels.


    • When you swell the barrel, never allow the same water stand in it for more than 2 days. If the soaking period exceeds 2 days, drain the barrel and fill it up with fresh water.
    • The longer you soak the barrel and properly tighten the hoops, the less likely it will have leakage.
    • Often take days for a barrel to soak up enough water to stop seeping, depends on how dry the staves are.
    • The barrel must never be left empty more than 2 hours after it has been conditioned.


If you encounter a problem what you can not handle, please contact us.

Use sulfur stick, keep the barrel in plastic films, store it in a dark and cool, 55°F to 80% humid environment, in absence of moving air currents, until we will make arrangements to have the barrel checked and  repaired if necessary.

ReCoop Barrel Care

Harford Vineyard ReCooped barrel will impart its oak flavoring and oxygenation benefits for three years from the date stamped under our brand. Thereafter, it can be used as a neutral storage vessel for your wine for an additional 2 years. If properly taken care of, a ReCooped barrel will have a total of 5 years of additional useful life without compromise to the barrels structural integrity or the quality of your wine.

Handle the barrel carefully and avoid rough treatment that could displace staves and lead to leakage.

A barrel that is empty should be stored in a temperature and humidity controlled cellar away from direct sunlight, hydrated and sulphured every 6 weeks. When hydrating, make certain to avoid chlorinated water, as it is known to contribute to the development of TCA, a precursor to “corked” wine.

Upon Receipt

All barrels are thoroughly tested for water tightness and structural integrity prior to shipment. As soon as you receive a barrel, inspect it for signs of handling damage such as: loose hoops, scuff marks, broken chimes or wet marks that could indicate that oil or chemicals might have been spilled on your barrel during transit. Please contact us immediately if you find any such issues. As all ReCooped barrels are tested, rinsed and sulfured before shipment, do not attempt to smell the barrel without evacuating all sulfur from within the barrel. Our barrels are ready to be filled with wine and need not be hydrated if done within 2 weeks from the date stamped under our brand on the head. Thereafter, the barrel should be hydrated to ensure all timbers are swollen.

Recommended Hydrating Procedure

The principal intent of hydrating a barrel is to ensure that the stave and head material are swollen with water to protect against wine seepage. Use only chlorine free, clean, potable water.

We recommend that you completely fill the barrel with warm water for a period of 24-48 hours. After the wood expands and all leaks stop, it is fully hydrated.

Once all water is removed the barrel should be filled with wine immediately.

If the barrel is not filled immediately with wine, let the barrel dry and gas with sulphur or burn a sulphur strip to prevent any mold or fungus growth.

Winemakers will sometimes remove or soften the harsher characteristics of new oak, preferring more vanillas and cinnamons. This is often accomplished by:

  • extending the period of water saturation (the barrel is completely filled for a period of 24-72 hours).
  • Once hydrated, cured with alkaline solutions of weak sodium chloride, sodium carbonate or caustic soda. If alkaline solutions are used, make sure to rinse out and neutralize the barrel with citric acid prior to filling with wine.

Nail hole or bore repair

Identify the source of the leak and clean around the area with a wet cloth. It is advisable to insert an ice-pick or round poker to ensure the hole is as round as possible.

Carefully tap a spile into the hole until it is snug. Cut the excess spile material with a small saw. The hole is now repaired and will prevent any liquids from exiting the barrel.

Please call us if the problem is not repaired so that we can remediate the issue.