When the home winemaker decides to take the lepa into actual barrels there's a million decisions before them: what type of oak, what toast level, new or recooped, the list goes on. But one can easily get so caught up with the details around barrel and oak selection that they forget a very simple, yet pivotal decision that would render all other question useless until figure out... how the hell are you going to keep a barrel horizontal for months at a time?
Now I know there are MANY barrel racks out there and the most popular among wineries are the 7" Western Square steel racks
or MoreFlavor has single steel racks
for about $99 plus shipping.
I recently acquired three 15-gallon barrels and needed a rack but I wasn't about to drop another $300 just for some racks. I searched high and low for a cheaper solution but only could find crappy used steel racks that would cost the same to have them shipped or I found crappy wood cradles that would shatter if the barrel was filled with wine... which they will be.
I opted to build my own racks.
I went to my local Lowes store and bought some standard 2x4 stud beams and caster wheels that could hold 125 pound each - plenty for a full barrel.
I measured where the steel rings were on the barrel then made my measurements. For my 15-gallon barrels, I made each cradle 21 inches long by 15" wide. I then cut wedges with a 12 degree angle (thanks to my father's table top circular saw) then screwed and nailed everything together for some serious support.
They may not be the prettiest racks but they'll wheel around which will make racking and topping up a snap! Rather than bringing everything to the barrels, I can take my barrels where I need.
I'd love to see and hear about what other people have done to solve this barrel cradle dilemma. Does everyone just suck up the cost and buy the steel racks or has anyone else made a cradle like mine?