“Botte grande vino piccolo. Botte piccola vino grande.”

‘Small barrels preserve the best wine’ – We asked ourselves if the best things do come in small packages after all.

Is there any truth to this popular Italian proverb?

We asked  Francesco, caretaker of Vignamaggio’s vines  and wines for the past 30 years.

From barriques and barrels to airlocks, we tried to uncover something about the fascinating relationship between wood and wine.


Wine barrels are graded by size.

The smallest, the renowned barrique holds 225 litres of wine.

The medium sized barrel holds 1500 –  2000 litres.

The large barrel holds 4000 -5000 litres.

What characteristics does a wine need to have or not have to end up in a barrique?

Wine suitable for the barrique is regarded as a superior wine because it needs to be structured and rich in polyphenols and tannins. It works synergistically with the wood, without being dominated by it. With a less structured wine, without tannins, in a barrique, the wood dominates completely, overpowering the original aromas and characteristics of the wine.

In terms of value, how much does a barrel or barrique cost?

A barrique costs in the region of 630 Euros, about 300 Euros per 100 litres and is replaced every 5 years.

A 4000 litre barrel costs about 9000 Euros, between 200 and 230 Euros per 100 litres.

The greatest difference between the two is that the large barrel can be rejuvenated, making replacing it every 5 years unnecessary: shaving about 5 mm of wood off the interior of the barrel every 10 years keeps the surface of the wood alive, prolonging the life and efficacy of the barrel.


French, American Slavonian Oak. How to tell the difference?

The origin of the wood makes a difference, but not only that: the quality of the oak is only revealed after 6 months of use. Vignamaggio’s’ barriques are all French oak and the largest barrels are Slavonian oak.

It really is incredible to see the wood’s influence on the wine and at our tastings each month, we notice the differences and the effects it imparts.


It looks like cement is coming back into fashion, but is it really able to take the place of wood in wine aging?

Cement displays excellent characteristics, the first being a thermal inertia that distinguishes it and guarantees a level of stability to the wine. If the interior is left uncoated, micro oxygenation is much like that of wood, but if left uncoated, there is an increased risk of bacteria. For the next harvest, considering the increase in vineyard area at Vignamaggio, we plan on buying 6 cement tanks for the fermentation.

Out of curiosity: how are the barrels cleaned?

All the barrels are cleaned with hot water only and to the delight of our cellar men, it is a rather labour-intensive operation.

An update on the wines from the last harvest: how is the aging going?

Vignamaggio’s 2017 wines are still all separated into wine-grape varietal and vineyard. This means that even if they are all already aging in wood, blending must still be done, and this will happen in Spring. The wines are developing well, with good colour stability and tannins being enhanced by the wood.

Curious to visit Vignamaggio’s cellars and taste our wines?

Don’t hesitate to join our guided tours or your wine tasting writing to o calling 00390558546624.