The use of oak barrels in wine-making is an expensive and complex part of the production. They have been used traditionally because of the strength of oak, its porous nature allows wine to evaporate and thus become more concentrated and also because oak adds flavour to the wine.  As this interesting article from about.com points out, oak is almost like a seasoning for the wine and for this reason the choice of barrel provenance, the lifetime of a barrel, the cooper have a massive effect on the end product.  It is also for this reason that there isn’t a widespread movement towards a more environmentally friendly (and cheaper) production method isn’t used.  Some wine-makers have replaced the oak barrels with stainless steel vats and…