Orders for traditional large wooden barrels are sharply increasing in Italy and abroad, as barrique imports fall dramatically, according major cooperage Garbellotto.

Reacting to consumer demand for less dominant oak flavours in wines, producers all over Italy are starting to use their small French barrels (‘barriques’) two or three times. Many are abandoning them altogether and turning back to traditional large barrels made from Slavonian wood.

The diminished presence of new wood in Italian wines was noticable in the Chiantinonsolo tasting held at Casafrassi, in the heart of Tuscany over the weekend where small, quality-minded producers presented their recent bottlings.

Chianti Classico producer Mario Bartoli from Fattoria Corsignano told decanter.com he expected to be months on the waiting list for large casks.

‘We used to use only barrique, but now use both older barriques and large casks because our customers want less oak. I bought a large cask last year and this year I’ve ordered another one, but because demand has soared, instead of waiting 40 days for delivery I now have to wait over four months.’

According to Piero Garbellotto of Garbellotto, it is not only small Italian producers who are turning back to traditional casks.

‘Barrique imports into Italy were down 30% in 2004 from 2002 and 2003 and there is a similar decline in barrique manufacturing here in Italy,’ he told decanter.com. ‘On the other hand, orders for casks are up more than 15%’.

He expects this trend to continue as large wine groups with various holdings are also changing over to large barrels. ‘And on Monday, for the first time in our company’s 230 year history, we shipped a container of casks to South America destined for cellars in Chile and Argentina.’

Written by Kerin O’Keefe