Two other people and I have a 60 gallon wine barrel that has been filled with flanders red for almost 1.5 years now. We sampled it the other day and decided it is ready to bottle whenever we can find time. Our only concern is that when we did the last tasting we noticed that the top few staves of the barrel are drying out, creating tiny gaps between them. We were about 8 gallons shy of it being filled initially and never topped it off as we planned, plus whatever has evaporated off as well. Our original plan was to bottle part of it and start a solera, but we are concerned now about the dry staves creating a leak when we refill.
So now we are trying to decide what the best action is going forward. So far we have considered still just bottling 30 gallons and refilling it, allowing it to reseal itself, with what we hope is not much of a mess. The second option is to drain and bottle it all, then wash the barrel with boiling water until it reseals, and then just filling it all the way with new wort. My understanding is that even with a boiling water wash it will still have plenty of bugs alive deep in the wood to sour it again when refilled. Last time we did primary in carboys with 1968 and transferred over, most likely we would do the same this time.
Does anyone have experience with this and have advise on what route we should go? Pros and cons for each? Or have other options that we haven't considered?