Mind & Matter


Second Life for Wine Barrels

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"Cooperage" repurposed wine barrel flooring. Photo: Fontenay Woods.


Wine enthusiasts who appreciate the positive qualities that wood barrels impart to the wine they contain will likely cringe to learn that the barrels are not typically reused, because the previously stored wine may contaminate subsequent batches of grapes. Although oak barrels are used to store a small percentage of the wine produced globally, the number of barrels is not insignificant. According to The New York Times, the second largest producer, François Frères, produces 170,000 barrels a year, each costing as much as $650.

California-based Fontenay Woods has developed a second life for these barrels as hard-wearing horizontal surfaces such as flooring and countertops. By dismantling and flattening the barrels, Fontenay is able to produce wood surfaces in three formats that are enhanced by the distinctive markings of winemaking. “Cooperage” is embellished with the markings and patina of the barrel head exterior, “Wine Infusion” is composed of the interior wood that is stained from wine during maturation, and “Stave” is made of the exterior sides of barrels after the hoops are removed. These rich surfaces demonstrate the fact that material reuse can serve as functional “upcycling,” rather than constitute an inferior-grade resource.



Comments (3 Total)

  • Posted by: tateberry | Time: 8:45 AM Thursday, January 30, 2014

    I hope to have tiles like these in my house! http://www.tateberry.com

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  • Posted by: Anonymous | Time: 5:35 PM Thursday, August 12, 2010

    i have a better idea. outlaw wine and then the barrels won't be needed in the first place. Oh, that failed in the 20's. silly me.

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  • Posted by: kbarkley | Time: 5:25 PM Thursday, August 12, 2010

    Though I like the idea of re-purposing used wine barrels for something other than planter tubs, I think it should be noted that barrels are generally reused for several years. Contamination is generally not the reason for retiring a barrel. Most wineries have a barrel regimen that includes new and used barrels so that costs can be kept lower. Wineries that use new barrels exclusively to extract more oak tannin generally sell their used barrels to other wineries for use in aging lower priced wines. It is not uncommon for a quality barrel to be in service for 5 to 10 years. Of course turning a barrel into flooring could potentially extend the use of the material to 100 years or more and that's a really great thing.

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About the Blogger

Blaine Brownell

thumbnail image Minnesota-based architect and author Blaine Brownell, AIA, is a self-defined materials researcher and sustainable building adviser. His "Product of the Week" emails and three volumes of Transmaterial (2006, 2008, 2010) provide designers with a steady flow of inspiration—a 21st-century Grammar of Ornament. Blaine has practiced architecture in Japan and the U.S. and has been published in more than 40 design, business, and science publications. The recipient of a Fulbright fellowship for 2006–07, he researched contemporary Japanese material innovations at the Tokyo University of Science. He currently teaches architecture and co-directs the M.S. in Sustainable Design program at the University of Minnesota. His book Matter in the Floating World was published by Princeton Architectural Press in 2011.