Wine Words: Barrique

updated Sep 29, 2022
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Barrique is a wine word that most of you will probably already be familiar with. The word ‘barrique’ means barrel, but not just any type of barrel. Do you know specifically what a barrique is? The word ‘barrique’ refers to a specific size and shape of oak barrel.

In making wine there are many different sizes of barrels used. Barrique barrels are relatively small barrels, but not just any small barrels. Barriques are also known as Bordeaux barrels, because it was in Bordeaux that their shape and size was designed and developed. Barriques are relatively tall and have a capacity of  225 liters (59 gallons).

In contrast the typical small Burgundian barrel is slightly larger and fatter. It holds 228 liters (60 gallons) and is called a pièce. Another relatively small barrel is the Hogshead, which has a capacity of 300 liters (79 US gallons).

Misuse of the Term Barrique

Because the word ‘barrique’ is so famous and long associated with the great wines of Bordeaux, the term ‘barrique aged’ is often incorrectly used to describe any wine that has been aged in small barrels to distinguish it from wines aged in much larger oak casks. 

Barrique Only Refers to Size

Barrique only refers to the size / capacity of the barrel. It does not indicate new or used oak; high, medium or low toast; or most importantly the provenance of the oak such as French or American.

Mary Gorman-McAdams, MW (Master of Wine), is a New York based wine educator, freelance writer and consultant. In 2012 she was honored as a Dame Chevalier de L’Ordre des Coteaux de Champagne.