Barrels are a critical part of making wine at Landry Vineyards in West Monroe

WEST MONROE, La (KNOE) What appears to be a storm cellar built into the side of a hill, is actually a wine cellar.

“A cellar is moist and cool. You don’t use very much energy because you use the earth. They’ve been making wine in the earth for thousands of years,” said Jeff Landry, owner of Landry Vineyards.

Jeff Landry says the barrels stored at Landry Vineyards in West Monroe come from all over the world. Hungary, France, and some from America. And barrels aren’t cheap. These white oak containers from France cost a thousand dollars or more.

“Where was the tree grown? French Oak is at least a $1000. Hungarian $850, and $550 to $650 for American Oak,” said Landry.

Landry says his wines are kept in these barrels for a year. And depending on how the wood was exposed to the elements and how it’s toasted before it gets to his winery impacts the flavor.

“If it’s a medium toast barrel that’s going to have more bread-like characteristics. If we go medium plus that’s going to be more coffee bean, chocolate type characteristics. There’s a number of flavors derived from the barrel according to the way they toasted the barrel,” said Landry.

Every container is stamped with a date so Landry knows how old it is. Each one is only used for five years. And if you think the wine is put in the barrels then forgotten for 12 months, you’d be mistaken.

“It’s like taking care of little children. You got to keep an eye on them. It’s very important that we know where they are. What’s going on? Are there any problems. Do you need some correction? Those types of things. There are lots to that,” said Landry.

There are so many variables that go into winemaking long before it flows into a glass. Besides starting with the best fruit possible, the winemaker must also choose carefully choose his container.

"A barrel is just a wonderful winemaking tool that is perhaps not as equally complex as wine but just a wonderful tool and we love working with them,” said Landry.