March 2018 Issue of Wines & Vines

New Barrels

More water-treated options, large formats and specialty barrels from France

by Andrew Adams

Coopers continue to design new barrels to provide structure with less new oak impact. American oak suppliers also are offering more high-quality barrels built with staves that have undergone several years of seasoning and are sourced from specific forests. Other coopers are offering new toasts and wood types in 2018, and one supplier unveiled a new barrel specifically designed for high-alcohol wines produced in warmer, drier regions.


Burgundian cooper Tonnellerie de Mercurey worked with its stave mill NT Bois and conducted a series of long-term tests with wineries in Bordeaux, California and Washington state to develop new toasts and oak selections for barrels to be used for Cabernet Sauvignon. The cooper’s M Prime barrel is an entirely new wood selection and toast intended to add “fullness and freshness” with a long, focused palate. The Haute Futaie selection is meant for wines of “great dimension and density” and is a good match for the cooperage’s light and long toast. Two other existing oak selections, Prestige and Nicolas, have also been updated with toasts meant for Cabernet. All of the toasts and oak selections are designed to “clean, lift, define and give real palate length.”


The Hydro Pure barrel is the latest addition to the Hydro-Collection series of barrels by French cooperage Tonnellerie Quintessence, which is part of American barrel producer Independent Stave Co. The Hydro-Collection barrels are produced with staves that undergo a water-immersion treatment to extract tannin. Staves are then pre-heated before undergoing a light toast. The Hydro Pure is designed to provide soft, floral notes, balanced texture and a subtle finish. The cooper also added two new barrels built with wood from specific forests. The Essence de Chantilly barrel features extra fine grain from trees growing in the limestone soils of Chantilly, and the silt-clay soils of the Montpensier forest in the Allier Forest is the source for the Essence de Montpensier.



California cooperage Tonnellerie Ô, which is part of Cork Supply USA, secured oak trees from the French forests of Jupilles and Tronçais for a reserve barrel program. The reserve barrels will be available in 2022. In addition to the reserve French oak, the cooperage also introduced the Patriot, Heartland and Revolution barrels that are all made with American oak. The Patriot is produced with a blend of wood from mills in the Appalachian Mountains, Minnesota and the Ozarks and seasoned for 24 months. The Heartland is made with 36-month aged wood from Virginia, Minnesota and Missouri, and the Revolution is made with 60-month wood and only available through allocation in 2020.


Available through The Boswell Co., the new Eclat Hydro barrels from master cooper Jean-Christophe Varron and Tonnellerie Vinea in France, are produced with French oak staves that are steamed using magnetized water in a pressurized, high-temperature tank for 30 minutes. After the “hydro” treatment, the staves are bent without fire and toasted via proprietary ceramic radiant-heat technology. The fine-grain barrels are toasted and produced without ever coming in to contact with flames. The Boswell Co. reports the barrels provide “an exceptionally smooth, fluid, elegant contribution to the wine, and the profile exceeds the fruit preservation of other French oak barrels in the low-toast spectrum.”


The new Hexagone series barrel by French cooper Tonnellerie Rousseau is a limited-edition cask produced with tight-grained oak from specific French forests. According to the cooper, the head of each barrel will feature a special etching with the forest location marked on the traditional “Hexagone” map of France. The forest source will change every year, offering the winemaker a historical and organoleptic “Tour de France” over time. The series will start with the Rambouillet forest, the historical hunting grounds for the Kings of France.


French cooper Tonnellerie Radoux recently unveiled its new Pure toast. The toast is intended to help winemakers express the purity of fruit and terroir. The Pure toast consists of just Radoux’s initial low temperature toast to preserve the “sweetness” of the wood by maintaining polysaccharides on the surface of the staves and minimal changes to the oak tannin to enhance wine volume and texture. The toast is available on tight-grain French oak barrels made in France with lightly toasted heads for red wines.


The OH>15 barrel is the latest barrel developed in the research department of French cooper Demptos. The barrel is designed to improve the “quality and freshness” of wines from hot, dry regions and help preserve the balance of wines with high alcohol content. The barrel is produced with wood that has fewer compounds, which, when toasted, produce flavors that heighten the “hot and spicy” characteristics of wines with high alcohol from warm climates.


The new Synergie barrel is Seguin Moreau’s latest addition to its Icône Range. The barrel is a blend of French and American oak. Icône barrels are produced with staves that are categorized by the cooper based on tannic and aromatic compounds. The French oak in the Synergie is intended to provide structure for the palate with balanced tannins and some sweetness, while the American oak “amplifies aromatic sweetness and roundness on the palate.” The barrel is recommended for premium red wines.


The American oak barrel producer Barrel Associates International unveiled a new “ripple” stave for its line of barrels. The staves feature grooves on the interior of the barrel to provide 40% more oak impact due to the increased surface area. Barrels with the ripple staves are available with any toast and are designed to provide more new oak impact without buying more new oak barrels.


Jean-Charles Vicard created Vicard Generation 7 barrels with the goal of eliminating variability by using precise tannin content determination and computer-controlled toasting. With his newest barrel, Ovonum, Vicard has turned his attention to shape and form to create a barrel based on The Golden Ratio: Phi, 1.618. The unique, limited-production barrel is made entirely by hand and available in all three tannin levels.


Chilean firm TN Coopers added acacia and cherry wood as new barrel options and also added three new toasts. The Fresh toast is a six-hour, extra-light toast that produces low levels of phenolic acids, making it a good pairing for white wines or light reds. The Sweet Plus, six-hour light toast can help wines that need some sweetness in the mid-palate, and the Intense Plus is a six-hour medium-plus toast with darker aromas and notes of spice and chocolate. The toast is recommended for “serious reds” that could benefit from some sweetness on the palate.


The French-owned American oak barrel producer Canton Cooperage extended its Grand Cru Limited Edition product line to include a 300-liter hogshead barrel produced of extra fine grain staves aged for a minimum of 48 months. The cooper reports the barrel has similar impacts to new French oak, providing “roundness with a velvety integration of tannins, more aromatic complexity and an elegant mouthfeel.” The added volume also provides less oak impact and less evaporation when compared to a 228-liter barrel.


French cooperage Tonnellerie Baron expanded to now include Fouderie Baron, offering large-format vessels for fermentation and aging. The foudres are available in sizes ranging from 10 hectoliters to 50 hectoliters (or 264 to 1,320 gallons), and in round, oval or conical shapes.

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