Second Life for Wine Barrels
"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.