Oak barrels have long played an integral role in wine production, likely first coming into use in northern Europe. Today, oak casks are most often used in the spirits trade, but in ancient times they were used to transport all manner of goods, replacing the less durable clay amphora.
Oak was plentiful in northern Europe. European oak was hard yet supple, making it easy for early coopers to shape staves into barrel-type vessels. Rudimentary barrels for wine transport were used in ancient Rome, but it would be much later before the profound influence of oak barrels on wine would be understood and manipulated.