Are Bourbon Barrel Wines A Thing?

Hey, you got bourbon in my wine!

The biggest wine trend right now is bourbon barrel wine. Working in the wine retail industry is a priceless learning experience. I totally get now why you can’t even apply to the Master of Wine Program without 1-3 years of retail wine experience.

The retail wine world puts you in touch with what consumers want, and with emerging wine trends and styles.

During one after hours shop talk, the topic of discussion was the enormous popularity of bourbon barrel wines. 

Wine publications have been asking this question since 2015. And the answer is, if the consumer wants a bourbon barrel aged wine, it must stay on the shelf. So I suppose the answer is yes. Bourbon barrel wines are here to stay. 

bourbon barrel wine

Bourbon Barrel Wine Sales

At the time of this article, bourbon barrel wine sales are at around 20 million BOTTLES a year. Sales of spirits-barrel aged wines have seen substantial growth in the last few years. Nearly every major American wine brand has a bourbon barrel aged wine in their portfolio. And they FLY off the retail shelves.

Spirits-aged wine can command a higher price tag while being low-cost and quick to produce.

Wine purists may not like them, but spirits-aged wines are popular with bourbon fans, and US whiskey is fast-growing.

Who Is Drinking Bourbon Barrel Wine?

Back in the day, bourbon used to be associated with male consumers, but it has become increasing popular with women.

Bourbon barrel wine is gaining traction and increasing in popularity to those who may not otherwise drink wine. The Gen Z, in particular, are ordering more bourbon cocktails.

Some see wine as something that their parents or grandparents drink.  

“Whiskey continues to excite consumers, and we are leveraging interest in brown spirits through our Spirit Barrel Aged wines. Overall, the consumer response has been outstanding, and we can’t wait to see where this road leads us.”

-Bob Blue, Winemaker for 1000 Stories

The first bourbon barrel aged wine was 1000 Stories by Fetzer Vineyards, released in 2014. Winemaker, Bob Blue, started experimenting with used bourbon barrels back in the 1980s, when he couldn’t afford new barrels.

The idea behind using bourbon barrels for wine is that it boosts the flavor and richness of a wine.

Legally, bourbon barrels have to be made from heavily toasted/charred new American oak. And they can only be used once. So there’s plenty of life/flavor left in the barrels after the bourbon is bottled.

The flavor of the bourbon can sometimes overpower the wine. Which is probably why the wine purist does not like them. Fair.

And because the barrels did in fact hold bourbon originally, bourbon barrel wine tends to be higher in alcohol.

Spirits-aged wine tends to be more popular in the US but the export is gaining traction overseas.

And as much as wine professionals tout acidity and funk, American palates are all about big, sweet, and smooth. After aging your wine in a bourbon barrel for a few months, you can check all of those boxes. You can also charge more for your wine — all of the bourbon barrel aged wines are $2-5 more per bottle than “regular” wines.

I’ve had an opportunity to taste quite a few of these wines. At their core, the wines are suuuuper ripe (usually Cabernet or Zinfandel), highly concentrated, and  jammy, with candied notes of vanilla, caramel, coffee and campfire — all characteristics that come from American oak.

Most Popular Bourbon Barrel Aged Wine

1000 stories zinfandel

1000 Stories American Barrel Aged Pinot Noir 2020

Winemaker Notes

Made with a uniquely American perspective, 1000 Stories is crafted to push boundaries. Each batch of this bold Pinot Noir brings distinct notes of wild cherry, black raspberry and vanilla. These deepen alongside hints of earth and allspice from seasoned American oak—a boldly spirited pursuit of doing things differently.
 
4 rating/24 reviews on Wine.com

Cooper & Thief Red Blend (Aged in Bourbon Barrels) 2017

Winemaker Notes

Made with a uniquely American perspective, 1000 Stories is crafted to push boundaries. Each batch of this bold Pinot Noir brings distinct notes of wild cherry, black raspberry and vanilla. These deepen alongside hints of earth and allspice from seasoned American oak—a boldly spirited pursuit of doing things differently.
 
4.1 rating/3480 reviews

Robert Mondavi Private Selection Bourbon Barrels Cabernet Sauvignon 2019

Winemaker Notes

Layered and complex, this Bourbon Barrel-aged Cabernet Sauvignon leaps from the glass with aromas of blackberry cobbler, graham cracker, brown sugar, milk chocolate, coffee and smoke. A palate of blueberry pie, praline, sweet vanilla custard, caramel and mocha is framed by soft, chewy tannins and a hint of toasted oak on the lingering finish.

4.1 rating/53826 reviews

Beringer Bros. Bourbon Barrel Aged Cabernet Sauvignon

Winemaker Notes

Aged for 60 days in American Oak Bourbon barrels, this wine is bursting with aromas of blackberry, dark chocolate, and vanilla cream. The palate is lush with ripe tannins and integrated acidity, showcasing toasted hazelnuts, toffee, and black cherry preserves on the finish.

4.1 rating/12983 reviews

Stave & Steel Bourbon Barrel Aged Cabernet Sauvignon

Winemaker Notes

This Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon is added and aged for four months in bourbon barrels, imparting additional layers of complexity, depth and flavor. The result is a refined, full-bodied Cabernet with bold fruit flavors. Dark cherry, blackberry and plum enrich the palate, providing excellent structure and generous tannin’s. The bourbon influences add notes of vanilla, caramel, and spice that lead into a long, smooth finish.

4 rating/13702 reviews

1924 Wines Double Black Bourbon Barrel Aged Cabernet Sauvignon (Limited Edition)

Winemaker Notes

Layered with suggestions of blackberry, vanilla and warm spice with notes reminiscent of Bourbon: caramel, butterscotch and charred oak.

4.1 rating/10350 reviews

Josh Cellars Reserve Bourbon Barrel Aged Cabernet Sauvignon

Winemaker Notes

This rustic and robust Bourbon Barrel Aged Cabernet Sauvignon starts with the award-winning Josh Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, which is aged for two months in bourbon barrels, imparting notes of cedar, caramel, and a subtle hint of bourbon. Aromas of dark chocolate, vanilla, coffee, and sweet burnt toffee blend harmoniously with flavors of baked black fruits and hints of barbecued meats. This wine is full-bodied with rich tannins and a lingering finish.
 
4.1 rating/7278 reviews

Robert Mondavi Private Selection Chardonnay Bourbon Barrel Aged

“Fresh pineapple, honey, caramel, butterscotch, sweet oak on the nose. In addition- Vanilla, butter on the palate. Creamy and full bodied, yum!”

4.1 rating/7278 reviews

Buck Shack Bourbon Barrel Cabernet Sauvignon

Winemaker Notes

Aging in bourbon barrels highlights the natural fruit flavors, infuses the wine with rich hints of bourbon vanilla and softens the roguish tannins. It’s a balanced, sophisticated experience crafted from the most rugged terrain—a delicious oxymoron.

4.1 rating/4228 reviews

Layer Cake Bourbon Barrel Aged Cabernet Sauvignon

Winemaker Notes

This Bourbon Barrel Aged Cabernet Sauvignon both truly expresses the depth and complexity of the grape as well as the additional vanilla, toasty oak influence of the bourbon and charred barrel that result from 3 months aging in these barrels. The result is a wine that is dense, rich, and jammed with scents of blackberry and vanilla and a long, mouth coating finish complimented by a hint of sweetness.

Bourbon Barrel Wine Makes A Great Cocktail

Ingredients

  • 1 oz Robert Mondavi Private Selection
    Bourbon Barrel-Aged Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 2 oz bourbon
  • 1 oz lemon juice
  • 1 oz simple syrup

Method

  1. Combine simple syrup, lemon, and bourbon in a cocktail shaker.
  2. Fill with ice and shake for 30 seconds.
  3. Strain over ice and gently pour wine over the back of a spoon for a floater.

Bourbon Barrel Wine FAQ

I’ve had an opportunity to taste quite a few of these wines. At their core, the wines are suuuuper ripe (usually Cabernet or Zinfandel), highly concentrated, and  jammy, with candied notes of vanilla, caramel, coffee and campfire — all characteristics that come from American oak.

And as much as wine professionals tout acidity and funk, American palates are all about big, sweet, and smooth. After aging your wine in a bourbon barrel for a few months, you can check all of those boxes. You can also charge more for your wine — all of the bourbon barrel aged wines are $2-5 more per bottle than “regular” wines.

The first bourbon barrel aged wine was 1000 Stories by Fetzer Vineyards, released in 2014. Winemaker, Bob Blue, started experimenting with used bourbon barrels back in the 1980s, when he couldn’t afford new barrels. The idea behind using bourbon barrels for wine is that it boosts the flavor and richness of a wine. Legally, bourbon barrels have to be made from heavily toasted/charred new American oak. And they can only be used once. So there’s plenty of life/flavor left in the barrels after the bourbon is bottled.

Merlot and Zinfandel from a California or Washington State, are great wines to try if you love bourbon. Bold with notes of vanilla, black cherry and plum, with a chocolatey finish. All characteristics that come from American oak.

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Spice up your next party with our FREE wine tasting guide! Learn what to look, smell, and taste for while appreciating your favorite bottle. We’ve also included a printable tasting notes template and a tasting wheel.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.