Wines & Vines Home
   
 
Welcome Guest
LOGIN |  CREATE ACCOUNT
 
 
February 2013 Issue of Wines & Vines
 
SUBSCRIBE   »
 

Barrels To Suit Your Wine Style

Customizing oak origin, stave thickness and grain, toast profile and more

 
by Andrew Adams
 
 
It’s not just the wood, toast and shape; coopers today offer a wide variety of custom touches that go beyond laser etching a winery’s logo on the barrelhead or wicker hoops.

In fact, most cooperage representatives tell Wines & Vines that almost every barrel order they fill is custom tailored to the needs of their clients. Quinn Roberts, the master cooper of Tonnellerie Ô, says he looks forward to working with clients to get exactly what they want in a barrel. “We’re always open to new ideas,” he says. “If it’s physically doable and we have the necessary materials, we’re willing to satisfy the customers’ demands.”

Winemakers frequently come in with their own suggestions for tweaking barrels. Roberts says people usually start adjusting toasts first. Custom toasting ranges from short, high-intensity “flash” toasts that are popular for thin-stave barrels to slower, longer toasts at lower temperatures. “In terms of toasting, that pretty much covers the gamut,” he says.

Another option is placing a barrel on a special stand with rollers so that Roberts can rotate the barrel while toasting it. He says that improved air draw helps the fire maintain a higher intensity and creates a convection effect. The method produces a toast that’s not as deep and helps him toast larger format barrels without charring them.

The cooperage also offers its sous l-eau stave treatment, which is an additional water soak of 12 to 18 hours to extract some of the harsher tannins from the wood. Roberts says the treatment helps the barrel elevate fruit flavors while adding “creaminess” with subtle oak notes. “It seems to be a real popular choice for both red and white—and Chardonnay in particular,” he says.

Roberts said it doesn’t matter if a client wants two or 200 barrels, he’s more than happy to discuss building the right barrel or experimenting with a variety of oak types to assembly their spice rack of barrels.

Oak blends for your blended wines
Tonnellerie Ô offers a range of hybrid barrels as well, according to Roberts. Whereas it was common to offer French oak with American heads or a 50-50 mix on stave wood, Roberts says he can provide a blend of different American oaks or of French oak from different forests.

While the wood is all assembled the same way, Roberts said French and American tend to react differently to flame, so a hybrid barrel offers not just a blend of wood but a slight variation of toast levels as well. “They do toast differently. That’s one of the interesting things.”

Roberts says Tonnellerie Ô also has access to the Cork Supply lab, which provides analysis about what the barrels add to the wine to help determine if a custom program is hitting the right notes.

Vincent Nadalie with Nadalie USA cooperage in Calistoga, Calif., says barrels are built to customer specifications relative to toast, size and stave thickness. The cooper offers the traditional French barrel styles as well as its Perle Blanche barrel designed specifically for white wines. The barrel is built using staves with tight and straight wood grain that undergo additional water treatments and air seasoning. Nadalie says the cooperage can work with other custom requests, but stock dictates availability. (Choices in August and September are going to be far more limited than in February.)

Tonnellerie Allary provides a range of barrels up to 600 liters in size and a selection of toasts that include a lower temperature long toast, according to Nicholas Keeler, the cooper’s U.S. representative. He says other options include forest of origin, stave thickness and grain tightness. “We are easily able to adapt our production to their demands,” he says of the company’s clients. “If there is a special demand, or an exceptional lot of oak becomes available, we are able to work with our clients from the very beginning—offering complete control, security and tracking of their custom barrel-making process.”

Tonnerlie Radoux’s sales and marketing manager, Martin McCarthy, makes a similar point, saying some of the cooper’s clients in the Midwest and eastern United States have used their own trees from wood lots they’ve aged themselves. “Everything is customizable,” he says.

Narrowing down the options
Most client consultations begin in late winter and early spring. McCarthy says a client’s style may match standard toast and barrel types, but it’s quite common to tweak those standards to fit winemaking styles. “In a sense, every barrel we sell is a custom barrel,” he says. “You start off with a whole bunch of options and narrow it down.”

McCarthy admits the range of barrel options gets much narrower for someone calling at the height of harvest.

Wood of origin “is usually the best point of departure” for starting the process of matching the right barrels to wine, McCarthy says. From there, it’s a matter of determining toast, size and any other coopering options such as varying toast time and temperature.

Because every cooper is essentially using the same trees, McCarthy says that proprietary toasts and toasting methods can really provide the custom elements that differentiate barrels.

He says one such step is bousinage, the process of placing a metal lid over the top of the barrel during toasting. McCarthy says this method spikes the temperature of the flames to add certain qualities to the toast.

Radoux also offers its “Revelation” and “Integration” toasts, which are tailored to certain wine types and styles. Such specialty toasts have standard protocols, but McCarthy said even these can be tweaked to a customer’s specifications.

At the core of the cooper’s customization efforts, McCarthy says, is Radoux’s OakScan process, through which individual staves are scanned to determine potential tannin. McCarty says the relative tightness of grain on a stave does not always provide an accurate indication of that wood’s tannin level. “To the eye it’s tight grain, but by tannin level (maybe) it is not.”

With the OakScan system, Radoux can offer winemakers greater precision to help winemakers to dial in their oak selections as well as provide the opportunity to build a custom barrel based on tannin level.

Dozens of different toasts
Last year, Cooperages 1912 unveiled the Fusion line of barrels that are built with a combination of French, American and European oaks.

Fusion allows winemakers to play with the proportions of oak type for staves and heads. International sales director Jason Stout says representatives can tell clients how different proportions affect flavor profiles, and the company recently introduced an app to do the same thing.

For the cooper’s other product lines, Stout says TW Boswell employs optical scanning technology to precisely read the oak’s growth rings. Staves are grouped by their ring count, and coopers construct barrels with staves of the same ring count. The end result, Stout says, is a barrel tagged with something like 12.9 GPI, or growth rings per inch. This allows winemakers to customize between fine grain and extra fine grain. “You know you’re getting the extra fine,” Stout says.

Cooperages 1912 has a more traditional approach to customizing barrels, but Stout says it comes with “absolute precision.” He adds that a major driver in the push for more custom options came from World Cooperage and its vast variety of toast profiles. Stout says the cooperage has developed around 130 distinct toasting profiles, yet not all of them are used every year. “In any given season, we’re going to have 60-plus toasting profiles that we’re selling in pretty good volume.”

As budgets continue to stay tight, Stout says his clients need their barrel programs to fit their wine styles, and custom options ensure that happens.

“Customizing is driving the industry; there is no doubt about it,” Stout says. “That comes from the winemakers, they wanted more options.”

 
SHARE   »
Print this page   PRINTER-FRIENDLY VERSION   »
E-mail this article   E-MAIL THIS ARTICLE   »
Close
 
Currently no comments posted for this article.
 
CURRENT MONTH'S FEATURES INDEX »


 
Wines & Vines Home
 
866.453.9701 | 415.453.9700 | Fax: 415.453.2517
65 Mitchell Blvd., Ste. A San Rafael, CA 94903
info@winesandvines.com
Wine Industry Metrics
 
Off-Premise Sales » Month   12 Months  
March 2013 $546 million
5%
$6,988 million
7%
March 2014 $572 million $7,451 million
     
Direct-to-Consumer Shipments » Month   12 Months  
March 2013 $177 million
20%
$1,483 million
10%
March 2014 $213 million $1,634 million
     
Winery Job Index » Month   12 Months  
March 2013 253
15%
166
27%
March 2014 292 210
     
 
MORE » Released on 04.14.2014
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Practical Winery & Vineyard Library
 
Search the PWV archive »
 
 

Direct To Consumer
Wine Shipping Report
2014
 
Download full report »
 
 

CALENDAR
  • April 23
     
    Sustainable Vineyard Practices: Strategies for Using Less Water
     
  • April 23-26
     
    CABs of Distinction in Paso Robles
     
  • April 26
     
    Siera Pelona Valley wine festival
     
  • April 27
     
    TAPAS Grand Tasting
     
  • MORE »
 

READER COMMENTS
 
Article: Starbucks Expands Wine Sales to More Cities »
 
Pretty amazing that the 1st wines chosen are from Argentina, Italy, and New Zealand! I...
Reader: Jacques Brix
 
Article: Starbucks Expands Wine Sales to More Cities »
 
Given Starbucks commitment to sustainability and global responsibility, I expect this move could be a...
Reader: Guest
 
Article: What to Do About Red Blotch »
 
There is NO correlation with planting density. Also FPS is working on the problem. New...
Reader: Guest
 
Article: Premiere Wine Auction Nets $5.9 million »
 
Thanks for letting us know Janet, we've updated the story. Cheers
Reader: Andrew Adams
 
Article: Will Barrels Go the Way of Floppy Disks? »
 
Fun piece. Particularly enjoyed the three clearly superior attributes of standard barrels, including looking cool...
Reader: Tom Gable
 
 


Directory/Buyer's Guide — Your Wine Industry Marketplace
 
 
WINERY SEARCH
 
 
Advanced Search »
SUPPLIER SEARCH
   by Product
 by Company Name or Brand
 
Browse by Category »
2014 Directory/Buyer's Guide
The Wines & Vines Directory and Buyer's Guide
 
 
EXPANDED ONLINE SEARCH INCLUDED WITH PURCHASE
 
ORDER NOW »
 
LEARN MORE »
 
 
Wines & Vines Magazine
 
 
LEARN MORE »
 
SUBSCRIBE »
 
Digital Edition Now Available!
Wines & Vines Digital Edition Now Available
 
LEARN MORE »
 
ORDER NOW »
 
 
The Wines & Vines Online Marketing System
 
The Industry Standard winery marketing application
 
FREE LIVE DEMO »
 
VIEW VIDEO »
 
 
 
 
Latest Job Listings
 Sales Person
 Metro Boston / North Shore, MA
Sales and Marketing
 Accountant/Bookkeeper
 Healdsburg, CA
Finance
 Vip & Trade Coordinato...
 Sonoma, CA
DTC, Tasting Room and Retai
 Pricing Systems Analys...
 San Francisco, CA
Finance
 Fine Wine Sales Repres...
 Seattle And Portland, OR
Sales and Marketing
 Maintenance Mechanic
 Healdsburg, CA
General Administration and
 Wine Sales South Bay
 Santa Clara, CA
Sales and Marketing
 Full Time Retail Wine ...
 New York, NY
DTC, Tasting Room and Retai
 Harvest Intern
 Yamhill, OR
Winemaking and Production
 Office Manager
 Napa, CA
General Administration and
 
More Job Listings >>
Follow Us On:
 
 





Home  |  About Us  |  Editors  |  Subscribe  |  Print Edition  |  Digital Edition

Advertise  |  Site Map  |  Contact Us  |  Privacy Policy
 
 
Copyright © 2001-2014 by Wine Communications Group, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
No material may be reproduced without written permission of the Publisher.
Wines&Vines does not assume any responsibility for any unsolicited manuscripts or materials.