Frequently Asked Questions
What is a Next Generation Barrel?
Next Generation Barrels are designed to replace new traditional oak barrels in the production of very high quality and often iconic wines.
How do we achieve this?
Very simple, we separate the elements of oxygen and oak.
On one hand, oxygen permeable polymer Flexcubes provide the oxygen element necessary in the maturation of wine through constant and linear passive oxygenation.
On the other, the ultra-high quality of our barrel oak, BarriQ provides the flavours, tannins and aromas of top end barrels.
Next Generation Barrels are in essence deconstructed traditional oak barrels. They offer winemakers many additional advantages and overcome most of the limitations and disadvantages of oak barrels.
Why shall I have Next Generation Barrels in my winery?
Next Generation Barrels offer six main advantages:
Quality -The highest possible wine quality, from reliability of constant and linear passive oxygenation and the consistent high grade of BarriQ oak, guaranteeing wines with preservation of fresh fruit characters and integration with perfect oak influence.
Control - The winemaker has a broad range of options by combining different oxygen permeabilities, oak profiles, oak quantities and contact times.
Consistency - The passive oxygenation levels of Flexcubes are consistent from Flexcube-to-Flexcube and remain unchanged over time. BarriQ provides accurate & reproducible toasting throughout the wood, and greatly increased batch-to-batch consistency through multiple randomisation of barrel staves through the production process (for example, minimisation of tree-to-tree quality variation).
Space - Next Generation Barrels can be stacked to up to 4,000 litres (40 hl / 1,060 gal) making possible to double the capacity of any barrel room. Find out more in our Space Efficiency Chart
Maintenance - One 1,000 litre Flexcube is equivalent in capacity to four-and-a-third 225L traditional oak barrels but only requires the set-up, cleaning & maintenance of one. Next generation barrels are easier to top up, clean and move around. They can be cleaned using less water than traditional barrels.
Environment - Next Generation Barrels offer a much more efficient approach to oak, significantly reducing the environmental footprint of winemaking. In using BarriQ oak in the wine, all of the oak are being used, not just the inner 3-5mm layer as in traditional barrels.
Why are Next Generation Barrels more consistent than oak barrels?
The widely accepted "Coopers rule" about barrel consistency says that out of every 10 'exactly the same' barrels, 2 will be 'excellent', 6 will be 'as expected' and 2 will be 'sub-par'.
This inconsistency is due to random variation in oak wood quality as depicted by a 'Gaussian curve' (this is caused primarily by tree-to-tree quality variation), toasting variability and variations in Oxygen Transfer Rate (carpentry, bung hole & stave jointing).
Next Generation Barrels don't suffer from this curse. They offer consistent oxygen permeability through the polymer, consistent and repeatable convection toasting and higher randomisation of staves (minimisation of tree-to-tree quality variation)
About BarriQ oak
What are the key differences between BarriQ "barrel oak" and oak "alternates"?
BarriQ barrel oak is not an "alternate".
1- Quality of wood: BarriQ barrel oak is exclusively sourced from slow growth Haute Futaie state forests in France, harvested at 100-200 years old; the finest medium elevation forests in the Caucasus Mountains in Russia; and the most prized Appalachian and Midwestern white oak forests in North America. BarriQ oak comes from exactly the same trees, and exactly the same part of those trees, that are used to make our traditional barrels.
2 - Hand split, not sawn: BarriQ is 100% hand split. This is important to preserve the full length of the 'tubes' within the piece of wood, allowing the retention and slow release of oxygen. Slow release slows the reaction kinetics, creating a higher quality result.
3 -Thickness of stave: BarriQ is 23mm thick, compared to 7mm of typical alternates. Greater thickness is important to slow release and integration of oak tannin/flavours and to provide greater toasting complexity.
4- Seasoning: Oak alternatives are generally not air seasoned fully or long enough, thus they retain hard, green tannins. This is the reason winemakers generally have to take alternates out of the wine after they have been in wine contact for 6-8 months, otherwise these tannins start to be extracted.
BarriQ barrel oak, on the other hand, is naturally season for 24 months. This is to allow three main oenological processes to take place: phenolic extraction/leaching (reduce tannin), oxidation of ellagic tannins (reduce and transform tannin) and encourage growth of micro-flora (increase of aromatic and flavour complexity).
5 - Complexity from blend of toast levels: BarriQ is available in seven exclusive barrel profiles. Each barrel profile offers a unique combination of different toast levels formulated to match the oenological properties and complexity of the best fire toasted traditional barrels.
What is the difference between fire toasting & convection toasting?
Fire toasting is inherently inconsistent as it varies within and along the same piece of oak depending on surface impact of the heat (toasting is the outcome of time and temperature, vary these elements and the resulting toast varies as well). This creates aromatic and flavour complexity however, at the cost of consistency.
Convection toasting is controlled and measured and produces a uniformity of toast throughout the same piece of oak. The same level of toasting can be replicated infinite times, ensuring consistency from batch to batch. The cost of this consistency however, is aromatic and flavour profile simplicity.
BarriQ oak is convection toasted, so how can BarriQ replicate the complexity of a fire toasted oak barrel?
By combining diferent toasts, in different proportions. That is how we created BarriQ barrel profiles. Each barrel profile offers a unique combination of oak and toast levels formulated to match the oenological properties and complexity of the best oak barrels. BarriQ is available in seven exclusive barrel profiles. Find out more about each barrel profile here.
What does the term "nbe" mean and what does it mean that a wine had "100% nbe"?
NBE stands for New Barrel Equivalent. 100% nbe gives approximately the same amount of oak extract as a 1st fill barrel.
What are the two main oenological differences between BarriQ & LBarriQ?
LBarriQ comes from exactly the same source of wood as BarriQ but it is cut thinner to provide faster extraction of oxygen and oak compounds in wine. For this reason it offers faster extraction but at the cost of slightly less complexity and structure than BarriQ.
About the Flexcubes
What are Flexcubes made of?
Flexcubes are made of specially selected polymer that is 100% food grade.
What sizes (volumes) do the Flexcubes come in?
The Flexcubes come in the following nominal volumes: 1kl/10HL/265Gal, 1.5kl/15HL/397Gal and 2kl/20HL/530Gal.
Why is the word "nominal" used when describing the size (volume) of a Flexcube?
The walls are flexible, so expand and contract (slightly but significantly) when empty or full, so the dry volume will be smaller than the wet volume. So nominal means "approximate". The Flexcube holds something like 20-30L more volume than when it is empty.
How many Flexcubes can be safely stacked on top of each other when full?
Up to 4,000L/40 hl/1,060gal worth. That is equivalent to: 4x1,000 litre Flexcubes or 2x2,000 litre Flexcubes or 2x1,500 litre Flexcubes + 1x1,000 litre Flexcube.
Is Bisphenol A (BPA) associated with Flexcubes?
Flexcubes are BPA free. BPA has no role in the manufacture of any components of a Flexcube, so Flexcubes are free of BPA. A BPA free statement can be downloaded here.
Are Phthalates associated with Flexcubes?
No. This has been verified in laboratories both sensorially and by analysis and in repeated analytical tests the company has conducted. A Phthalate free statement can be downloaded here.
Can I use a Flexcube for white wine after using it for red wine?
Yes. Just clean your Flexcube with caustic soda to de-colorise the polymer.
Does the polymer in Flexcubes scalp?
While all polymers scalp to some degree, tests have shown that the scalping of the polymer used in the Flexcube is sensorially insignificant and is much the same as the polymer disc in a metal screw capped wine bottle.
Does the polymer in Flexcubes migrate?
Swiss laboratory (CIBA) reported migration according to EU migration standards is within safe levels. Sensory experience; in 10 years of Flexcube use throughout the globe there has been ZERO cases of 'plastic taint'. Regular HPLC / GC analysis of our polymers through accredited laboratories continually monitors this.
Shall I use hot water to clean a Flexcube?
No. Hot water will distort the polymer and should never be used. Always clean your Flexcube with cold water and a 2% solution of caustic soda (sodium hydroxide) or similar.
Can ozone be used to clean a Flexcube?
Yes, the Flexcube is ozone safe.
Can I store my Flexcubes outside?
Flexcubes are UV stabilised and when empty, can be safely stored outside. Full Flexcubes should of course be placed in a protected and preferably temperature controlled cellar environment.
Flexcubes in pearl colour are UV stable, but do pass visible light. If storing wine outside or near a window, use the opaque grey Flexcube or fit a cover.
When storing empty Flexcubes, care must be taken to ensure they are clean and dry to promote a hygienic internal environment. There is no need for the use of SO2 in storing the Flexcube if it is stored clean & dry.
What are the small, raised ribs on the lid main seal for?
The ribs on the main seal are for orientation, as the main seal has a 'right way up' and a 'wrong way up'. They indicate the side that should face downwards (toward the wine) - always ensure the rib on the main seal are facing downwards as fitting the seal incorrectly will reduce its sealing capability.
What are the choices in oxygen permeabilities available?
Flexcubes are available in three permeabilities: Low (LP) 6mg/L/yr; Medium (MP) 9mg/L/yr; and High (HP) 12mg/L/yr.
Which permeability shall I use?
Low permeability is better suited for whites and those red varieties with low tannic and phenolic content (often Grenache responds better to LP).
Medium permeability is the most versatile option, works very well with most Cabernets, Shiraz, Pinotage, Pinot Noir, Carmenere and Merlot.
High permeability ideal for varieties with high tannic and phenolic content where a softer finish or earlier release is beneficial (Petite Syrah will often respond better in HP)
What Flexcube permeability shall I use to ferment & mature Chardonnay?
Because there is plenty of O2 available during ferment, the permeability of the Flexcube is of little influence during fermentation and immediately afterwards (say 1-2 months). So you can ferment in any permeability. For maturation however, LP is highly recommended (essential). Chardonnay and other white 'broaden' and 'fatten' quite quickly in MP Flexcubes
What are the main cellar procedures I need to practice with my Flexcube?
Ullage - Check fill height every 4-8 weeks as thermal expansion/contraction will always occur with wine temperature changes.
SO2 - Check and adjust SO2 levels as you would in a traditional barrel (a typical cellar will do this every 4-8 weeks).
Reductivity - If there are signs of reductivity in your wine, rack and return as you would in a traditional barrel.
Do I need to top up my Flexcube?
Within 2 weeks of filling, the Flexcube must be topped, as the polymer walls will initially stretch. Unless the wine is undergoing primary or malolactic fermentation (when it must be vented), maintain the Flexcube completely full, the same as a traditional barrel.
Can I use liquid filled expansion chamber on my lid to guarantee it is always full and topped up?
No. Due to their weight, and subsequent change of force on the main seal, liquid filled expansion chambers are not to be used with Flexcubes (and are unnecessary anyway). The use of such chambers will void the warranty.