Country Life: Wine barrel laments

2012-12-06T00:00:00Z Country Life: Wine barrel lamentsRich Moran Napa Valley Register
December 06, 2012 12:00 am  • 

Pity the poor wine barrel. A beautiful oak barrel is the keeper of the valley’s nectar one day; and, once used, too quickly sent to unknown exile.

Used wine barrels are like nuclear waste — no one is really sure what to with them. New wine barrels cost a ton of money.

As any winemaker will tell you, a new barrel can be had for about the same price as a new BMW. When multiplied by the number of barrels required, you could buy a BMW dealership. Like that new BMW, wine barrels depreciate quickly once used. Fortunately, BMWs are not turned into planters and flower pots after a year or two.

The only thing that might depreciate faster than a wine barrel is a fancy wall calendar after Jan. 2 each year. Based on roadside signs all over the wine country, it looks like over the course of a few years, wine barrels go from $1,500 per barrel to somewhere between $20 and free. That is real depreciation.

It is a tale for the ages: When it comes to losing value, nothing compares to wine barrels. But how to retain any value in the barrels has been a dilemma for centuries.

A use for those barrels that have done their turn holding wine and now need a new life has always stretched man’s mind to the limit. Entrepreneurs and craftsmen have explored the limits of this universe, ranging from furniture to cutting boards to candle holders to firewood. The wood is beautiful and we hate to see it wasted.

Let’s finally solve this dilemma. If our society can get a billion users on Facebook, surely we can turn our attention to these beautiful containers and find quality uses for them.

So people unite! Now that the world is driven by rescue dogs, compost bins, used bricks that cost 10 times more than new ones, expensive salvage yards and reclamation centers, and zero-waste thinking, let’s stretch our brains even more to help the used and washed-up wine barrels. We need to seek that next life for wine barrels, to restore them to their rightful place in our universe.

How can we use barrels that will be dignified and important and restore their proud place in the universe? Here are just a few ideas:

• Gopher traps. The gopher can scoot into the little hole in the barrel and never figure out how to get out, just like a lobster trap. Lobster traps are very collectable. It will work as well as most other products designed to eradicate gophers.

• Beehives. Since the wasps have made a habit of building nests in barrels and never leaving, it makes sense that bees should feel at home in barrels, too. I am not sure how one would get the honey out, but I would guess the bees would like it.

• Niagara Falls water vehicles. Ship the beautiful barrels to the beautiful landmark, where going over the falls in a barrel is sort of like bungee jumping, I believe. It can’t be easy to find a barrel there, so let’s help out our East Coast friends.

• Christmas tree holder. ’Tis the season — a barrel fits the rustic and natural décor that a tree requires. Some engineering may be required to get the tree to stand upright.

• Bathtub or washing machine. The shape of a barrel cut in half from top to bottom would be perfect; a very sharp saw is required. What to do with the pesky barrel stays and the charred insides is a secondary matter that would need to be resolved.

OK, some ideas are more practical than others. Save the barrels!

(Rich Moran splits his time between the city and wine country feeling sorry for used wine barrels.)

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