The oak is one of the ancient kinds of trees
from the beech family. In Hellenic and ancient
Romans mythologies the oak, together with the
grape and wine, was devoted to Zeus and later to
Jupiter. This tree deals with the history of mankind,
and as the consequence of it with the history of wine-making.
In medieval France the oak was counted as the symbol of justice.
In ancient Russia it was associated with the symbol of steadfastness,
power and courage. The biological features of this tree provided the
wide usage; the man from ancient time used practically all the tree
entirely (wood, bark, acorns) during the producing and keeping of
the foodstuffs, and also with curative purposes.
In wine-making people came to usage of oak barrels through experience.
But for transporting and keeping the wine this tree was in daily usage
relatively later. The barrels are mentioned in Homer's "Iliad" but
they were not used that time. The wine was prepared in the jugs and
was transferred in leathern wine-skins. With the development of
trade the amphora displaced the leather. Only in the end of the
fifth century BC the trace of using the wooden barrels for transferring
wine from the valley Po to Rom was found out.
It is suggested that the source of cooper ought to be sought in Gallia.
In the 1-2 centuries the barrels came to Rom with the Gallic wine through
Massalia (Marcel), and then they were spread further. From the early medieval
the oak barrel became the main vessel for wine-making. In some countries,
because of the lack of oak, the barrels are made from the chestnut, beech,
fir, acacia, and pine-tree. But only the wood of oak is enough solid, is
good to be treated, has the porosity what is necessary for air penetration
into the wine, and does not impart to wine any objectionable smells and tastes.