This is the process of barrel making, but is also the noun for the barrels themselves and the place where barrel making occurs. Coopers are the professional oak barrel makers. The practice making wooden barrels for wine storage dates back to Roman times and, in fact, it was not until the 1800s that molds for making bottles were first seen. In removing the barrel contact from the equation, winemakers noted that the wine was not the same - it lacked certain flavor profiles and at times was much less interesting and well-balanced. Oak barrels began to develop an image of quality they had never had and today the best new oak barrels sell for $800 to $900 When multiplied by the number of barrels typically required by a winery, this price is of course astronomical, and only the more expensive wines can justify new oak aging. Yet the prestige of the oak aging has guaranteed its existence.
The process of constructing barrels is still done nearly entirely by hand, making it an intensely time-consuming and laborious one - not to mention hot and loud. A great cooper can produce around 5 barrels in a day, with more mechanized processes turning out up to 20.