This is what I asked him:
Q: What do you look for in a used barrel when choosing one for your recycled projects?
A: The outside of an old barrel is always dirty, beaten up and quite worn-out, but what really matters is to check the inside to verify the condition of the wood. Often the oak gets 'eaten up' by the corrosion of the wine and so it's better to choose a piece with the least amount of visible cracks on the inside. It will spare you a lot of trouble in the later procedures.
Q: There seems to be a choice between French, German and American oak; have you noticed any substantial difference in quality and general features between the three origins of cooperage?
A: French and German oak is definitely better. The European oak is superior in term of grain quality and also in the sense that the wood seems to be 'softer' and therefore easier to work with.
Q: What do you like the most about this type of wood?
A: The barrels are made of quarter-sawn premium solid white oak, which is Grade A lumber. This well seasoned oak is a very 'stable' kind of wood, lovely to work with. The material is also widely available because vintners can use the barrels only for a few vintages before the wine draws out the oak flavoring they are after, and that guarantees endless supply and vast selection.
Q: What would be your number one advise to someone who'd like to experiment with using this type of wood for the first time?
A: Think out side the box! The barrel's shape is both a challenge as well as an inspiration. The staves' curviness and round top limit and dictate the rules, however, when approached with the right attitude they may trigger ingenuity and bring unprecedented innovation in one's designs.
So, go pick your barrel and..choose wisely!