Adding new wood to old barrels - effortlessly and cost-effectively

The innovative ZigZag barrel renewal system is not a new concept to the wine and spirits industry. It is used worldwide with great success by distillers and winemakers who wish to age their products in new barrels without incurring the high cost of procuring new barrels. 

“The ZigZag system offers the perfect solution for the introduction of new wood aromas into wine and spirits being aged in used barrels,” says TNCoopers South Africa GM, Marinus Potgieter. “Our company’s ZigZag system is not only effective and cost-saving, but also very simple to insert and remove from the barrel.”

The proof is in the barrel

To demonstrate and verify the benefits and qualities of the ZigZag system, TNCoopers recently worked closely with laboratories of the Oenological Chemistry and Sensory Evaluation of the University of Chile. In this 12-month survey the research team monitored a 2016 Carménère from Chile’s Lontué Valley, exposing it to new barrels, used barrels, used scraped barrels and barrels fitted with the Zigzag renovation system.

Following this period, the sensory characteristics and phenolic composition of the wine was analysed. The results confirmed that the barrel renewal system significantly improved the organoleptic properties of wine and spirits being aged in used barrels with the ZigZag system. 

It was shown that, during the first months of aging in ZigZag-fitted used barrels, variations in various chemical compounds occurred. However, these variations disappeared when aging approached 12 months, which confirmed that the ZigZag-fitted used barrels are an excellent alternative for prolonged aging periods.

The wine also showed lower tannins, resulting in softer and more full round wines. 

Barrel aging of spirits:

The process of aging distilled spirits in barrels is very different from aging wine.

Aging of spirits with deep, spicy flavour profiles are best known, such as whisky, bourbon and rum. Spirits like gin, agave spirits and vodka are typically not barrel-aged because it is widely thought that the barrel would not make a significant impact on flavour. However, there are a few innovative distillers in South Africa trying their hand at adding staves to their gin or agave and submitting it to an aging process. We look forward to the outcome!

Aging spirits in barrels lets the wood direct oxygen into the alcohol while allowing evaporation to take place. Furthermore, the natural flavours of the wood is absorbed into the spirits. While many distillers enjoy experimenting with the flavours left behind in used barrels, utilising a renewal system like ZigZag introduces new wood aromas to the spirits.  And of course all of these elements play a combined role in adding finesse and finish to a spirit’s taste and aroma.

Finally, aging in barrels has the added benefit of reducing the ethanol content, removing the harsh rubbing alcohol taste in the finished product. 

Marinus concludes: “These findings confirm that the ZigZag system is an excellent alternative as a renovator of used barrels. It not only extends barrel life but results in wine and spirits with similar characteristics to those aged in new barrels.”

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