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ONLY THE FINEST WOOD FROM THE FOREST

It all starts in the forest: our barrels are made of oak from trees that are at least 120 years old that have a diameter of at least 50cm. We source the majority of our supplies from two local forests (Argonne and La Montagne de Reims) and we also source some oak from other famous French forests.

BARREL MAKING STEP BY STEP

Barrel-making is a long process comprising many stages in which water, wind and
fire all play a crucial role.

SPLITTING THE TRUNKS

On average, one oak tree provides us with 1.5 m 3 of wood that we can then make into staves.
It takes 10 m 3 of wood to make just 2 m 3 of staves which in turn is enough to make 20 barrels (of between 205 and 228 litre capacity).

DRYING THE STAVES

The staves are left out in the open air for 3 – 4 years where the action of the sun and the weather reduces the bitterness and astringency of the wood whilst enhancing its aromas and tone until it reaches perfect maturity. The ultimate objective is to preserve the finesse and elegance of the wines.

CREATING THE BARRELS

The staves are then made into smaller pieces called douelles. 30 or so of these are
needed to form the shell of the barrel whilst the top and bottom plates make the
barrel water-tight. Galvanised metal bands keep the staves and the lids in place.
There are 4 stages involved in making the large staves into the smaller douelles:

Ecourtage (cutting to length)
For each given barrel size we first cut the staves into identical lengths: douelles
Dolage (backing)
The outer curve of the douelles is fashioned according to the desired circumference of the barrel to be made.
Creusage (hollowing)
The inside surface of the douelles is then shaped according to the desired interior of the barrel.
Jointage (shaping)
The most delicate operation which consists of adjusting the thickness of the douelles in the middle and at the ends so as to follow the form of the barrel and, by shaping the joints, give a perfectly round and tight finish.

BENDING

This is another important stage that consists in heating the barrel to make it water-tight. The shell of the barrel is presented in the « en robe » position (sometimes called the Rose position) and once in place, the inside is heated to allow the barrel to be pinched together to make it perfectly water-tight.

TOASTING

Toasting the barrel is a crucial step from the point of view of the wine maker and the toast is adjusted according to whether a very discreet or a more pronounced woody character is wanted in the wine.
Le Bousinage, which is the final phase of the toasting, releases the most silky and elegant aromas in the wood: vanilla, lime blossom, coffee, toast and spices. One of the specialities of La Tonnellerie is the slow, soft toasting we carry out at low temperatures.

CUTTING

In this operation grooves are cut into the chime (lip) of the douelles at both top and bottom, so that the barrel lids fit perfectly.

MAKING THE LIDS

Lengths of wood are laid out side by side and held in place with stainless steel dowel pins. A thin layer of straw is inserted between each piece to ensure a completely water-tight seal.

ADDING THE CASKHEADS

The top hoops are removed to loosen the staves. Then we coat the base of the lip of the barrel with a paste made of gluten-free buckwheat, ash and water to ensure the barrel is water-tight.

ATTACHING THE HOOPS

The first hoops we use are large and quite thick and are called cercles de moule (moulding hoops). Then we fit galvanised steel hoops and hammer them into place with the help of a wooden block called a chasse.
Wooden hoops made out of chestnut wood can also be fitted to protect the barrel and to facilitate the stacking of the barrels in the winery.

FINISHING

The barrels are immersed in water to make sure there are no leaks and to wash off any foreign particles that may have become stuck to the sides. The barrel is then thoroughly rinsed and finally it is sanded to leave a smooth surface.