Barrels made of oak are the preferred containment for red wines. France, Hungary, and the United States are the most prominent producers. The cost of a barrel is determined by it's origin. French barrels are the most expensive and the most deserved by winemakers. Different origins produce different tastes. White wine can also be stored in barrels (frequently done for Sauvignon Blanc in Bordeaux). The age of a barrel is a winery decision as the oak effect dissipates with time and use. Cabernet Sauvignon, for a premium brand, is put into new barrels each year; some others may use a mixture of new and old barrels to obtain a less oak affected taste.
Cabernet Sauvignon will typically rest in a barrel for 16-18 months before it is bottled. Barrels can make a difference in the taste and quality of wine. The winemaker chooses the barrels (new, used) based on preference and the price (French is the most expensive). My favorite approach is to use French barrels for both red and white, and a mixture of new and used for the red white. Premium reds should have new barrels.