The smart oak alternative


Infusion spiral systems for wine, a patented system by The Barrel Mill in USA

Many winemakers will say that great wine is really made in the vineyard. Their job is simple: do no harm and let the grapes work their wonder. But the winemaker’s role deserves more credit than just serving as a sort of chaperone for the grapes. Decisions are made almost daily along the wine processing continuum and it is the winemaker who navigates the journey that leads to greatness.

Throughout this ongoing winemaking activity, the possible application of oak arises almost any time. From fermentation to just weeks before bottling, this abundant resource with properties seemingly naturally created for winemaking is applied in all kinds of formats to perform one or more critical functions. Whether to build, enhance, support, sweeten, lengthen, lift, mask, improve, complement, round-out or add structure, oak is second only to grapes in the hierarchy of components that directly impacts the winemaker’s final product.

Understanding the role of oak in the winemaking function was – and still is – the inspiration for the design, manufacture, assembly and packaging of the Infusion Spiral system by The Barrel Mill. The company believes that in addition to contributing aroma and flavour, an oak adjunct must offer convenience, simplicity, refinement, and unquestionable value in a neat, clean, quality-controlled package. Furthermore, when all of these benefits come in a product that performs eight times faster than a new oak barrel, winemakers see, taste, smell, feel, and experience for themselves why the Infusion Spiral system earns its designation as the smartest oak alternative. The unique spiral-cut design creates unrivalled surface area in a small package, allowing fast extraction of the toasted oak’s aroma and flavour compounds with refined integration in the wine.

The Infusion Spiral system delivers refined quality, elegant integration of wine and oak, and a complexity that rivals the finest grained French or American oak barrels. Aroma impact is noticeable but not heavy. Flavour impact is complementary from the background, always respecting the fruit.

Infusion spiral systems for barrels

20170131eh40The Infusion Spiral barrel system, or Barrel Pack is the most popular Infusion Spiral product for winemaking in every size segment of the industry and every major wine region in North America. It has been used with virtually every major grape variety and at every stage of production – from oak fermentation  to weeks prior to bottling.

From artisan garagistes with only a handful of neutral barrels in the cellar to the mega-wine producers with stacks and rows of thousands of barrels and hundreds of tanks, the Infusion Spiral Barrel Pack has been a workhorse for winemakers since 2005. When the winemaker needs premium new oak aromas and flavors without the expense, space, hassles and time frame associated with buying, storing, preparing and handling brand new oak barrels, the Infusion Spiral Barrel Pack is the go-to oak alternative. In production volumes, it gives winemakers precise control of oak in large or small lots that need individual attention. In the oak trial phase, it gives uncommonly reliable results when applied to standard 59 to 60-gallon barrels rather than 750 ml bottles used in typical bench trials.

After approval as either a small or significant component of your oak programme, the Barrel Pack is ready to apply immediately after removal from its protective plastic packaging. One closed end of its nylon mesh sleeve is tied into a loop to make it easy to attach to a bung using the enclosed nylon zip-tie and a stainless eyelet (optional purchase) fastened into the bung’s bottom surface. Oak Spiral Barrel Pack dosage can easily be reduced by cutting the nylon mesh in between any two spirals and re-closing the end of the mesh sleeve. One Barrel Pack consists of six toasted Infusion Spiral products, each one nine inches long, all contained and connected by the food grade nylon mesh sleeve to permit quick and trouble-free insertion and removal through a standard bung hole in a 59 to 60 gallon barrel. After a period of about six weeks, one Barrel Pack gives the wine the same impact a new oak barrel would impart after about eight months in contact with wine. Leaving the Infusion Spiral system in longer contact with the wine enables smoother integration with and rounding out of the wine.

20170131eh41Once inserted into the barrel, wine will freely pass through the nylon mesh, penetrating the large surface area of the coils in the Infusion Spiral system, starting with the system’s immersion into the wine and triggering the release of the toasted oak’s complex aromatic and flavour compounds. The patented spiral-cut design creates the combination of cross-grain and parallel-grain exposure that gives the Infusion Spiral system its advantages over other oak alternatives: rapid extraction of complex oak compounds and refined integration of oak in the wine. Another winemaking benefit of the Barrel Pack system is the ability for us to give the winemaker combinations of different toasted oak spirals in the same Barrel Pack.

The French Oak Blend Barrel Packs each have varietal-specific combinations of toasts that work together in lifting fruit, adding mid-palate sweetness and lengthening finish. These are available in addition to the company’s standard single-toast Barrel Packs of Light, Medium, Medium Plus or

  • Heavy toast
  • Bordeaux Blend
  • Burgundy Blend
  • Rhone Blend
  • French-American Hybrid.

Installing barrel packs

There are three options for inserting a Barrel Pack into a neutral barrel. The most popular method uses a stainless steel eyelet that is screwed into the bottom of your normal silicon bung and the included food-grade zip-tie to connect the end of the mesh bag to the eyelet. Another option is to use about three feet of fishing line (20-30 lbs strength) tied to one end of the mesh, bring the line out through the bung hole and staple or tape the other end to the outside of the barrel. Finally, you can order one of special bungs with an extended length at the bottom to wrap the zip-tie directly to the bung.

Infusion spiral systems for tanks

Whether applying to stainless steel tanks or polyethylene tanks, tank-size Infusion Spiral systems are the most economical way to add new premium oak to large volumes of wine. Popular with wineries that produce 50,000 cases of wine and more per year, and for wineries that want to quickly add oak to Bulk Wine, extraction is fast – within weeks – and results are extremely well-integrated. Leave the oak in for an extended period for even smoother integration.


Tank packs contain five 48-inch long Infusion Spiral coils in a single nylon mesh bag. The mesh is looped at one end to make handling and installation easy. The exact same spiral-cut design as the barrel-size is used for the tank-size packs. This is the optimal engineered design for maximum grain exposure in a space-saving package creating minimal material waste in the manufacturing process.

Each tank pack treats 1000 gallons of wine with 25 to 30 per cent new oak barrel aroma and flavour. Tank packs may either hang from existing internal tank hooks to avoid contact with lees or simply be placed into the wine from above and allowed to submerge if bottom of wine is clear. When selecting tank-size Infusion Spiral systems for your wine, think about combining different toast levels in the same tank. This will add complexity, length, and mid-palate sweetness.

About The Barrel Mill

The Barrel Mill is a cooperage in Central Minnesota, USA, specialising in manufacturing premium oak barrels for the craft spirit industry. It is also the patent-holder and world producer of the Infusion Spiral system. The company uses only the highest grade oak available to the industry, selected for uniform grain tightness and aged outdoors to achieve tannin reduction, proper moisture content and development of complex wood compounds. The oak is seasoned for a minimum of 24 months. The Infusion Spiral used to add flavour and aroma to fine wine, can also be applied to whiskey, rum, tequila and beer. It has been used in thousands of wines since 2005 with outstanding results from every major wine region in North America.