The Oak of France –
Tonnelleries Doreau and Vernou
We will not purchase barrels from a tonnelliere that is too close to major thoroughfares or located in seemingly congested French villages. We will only purchase from tonnellieres that we have personally and individually identified as located in or near the forests used to source ‘traceable’ barrel staves machined in their own mills far from car and truck fumes and other invasive chemicals, smells or dust generated by more populous areas.
We then decide on our oak needs based on the ‘styles’ for each vintage which changes based on the content level of acids, sugars, phenols, etc. as; Old World (location or terroir driven), New World (driven by the character of our grapes), International (known as ‘extracted’ styles for very tannic years), Australian (very fruit-forward with very little oak nuance) or a mix of one or more of these styles. Add to this the ‘toasting’ levels selected for the barrel staves and barrel heads and you begin to approach a ‘profile’ plan for our wines year by year.
Next, when using French oak, we must choose the actual forest location for each barrel(s) to assure the proper ‘profile’ development. At Sokol Vineyards we have wonderful forest options in France through our French barrel makers, Doreau Tonnellieres and Tonnelliere Vernou:
· Allier – the grain is generally fine and its porosity brings supple tannins to the wine
· Tronçais – comes from the famous 21,000 acre forest, east of the Cher valley which provides elegance and delicacy with roundness, suppleness, and complexity.
· Vosges (Bourgogne, Argonne, Ardennes, Haute-Saône and Yonne) – the wood here is grown at much higher elevations which results in a distinctive intense character.
Given that we use barrels at this time only for our red wines, we do not incorporate wood from the forests in Nevers, Bertranges, Jupille and the West of France as these are better for certain white wine profiles.
Finally, we select small, exceptional quality tonnelleires for our completed barrels. We selected Doreau and Vernou because of their consistent production of barrels known to provide finesse and elegance to wine combined with ‘hand-crafted’ techniques assuring a personal touch to a flawless product.
The work of time. Tonnellerie Doreau perpetuates its traditional know-how by mastering every stage of production, including natural drying. Doreau selectively sources only the finest French oak from the top forests in France. All French oak is air dried and seasoned for 36+ months at carefully controlled seasoning yards.
Like great winemaking, great barrel making is a noble craft. Steeped in age-old traditions, both rely on sheer human creativity, prowess and discipline to transform sensational fruits of nature into elegant, awe-inspiring human creations.
At Tonnellerie Doreau the essential objectives and challenges of both wine and barrel making are similar: to bring forth from a naturally variable and selectively picked ingredient only its finest, most desired sensory attributes and craft them into inspired flavorful recipes that are balanced and consistent — season after season, barrel after barrel, and bottle after bottle.
Tonnellerie Doreau celebrates the finest enduring traditions of cooperage by individually building, toasting and finishing every barrel by hand. The coopers swing hammers and toast barrels one by one over an open fire. Doreau chooses to work this way because they believe making a barrel right requires the constant judgment of a gifted cooper using his trained skills and senses to select and apply the right staves, the right toast and the right touch.
Tonnellerie Vernou maintains a production site in Gensac la Pallue near Cognac, 2 merranderies in Genouillac and Piègut, and a site in Sigogne, specializing In the production of large containers and Cognac casks.
Based on its experience and reputation, the Vernou cooperage has remained faithful to the Cognac market since its creation. It has also proved its worth in the high-end market of French and foreign wines. Tonnellerie Vernou’s positioning stems from the proximity it maintains with winegrowers, vintners and distillers, some for 2 generations, but also homes of Cognacs and prestigious French wineries.
A unique heating process, or bousinage, reveals all the aromatic potential of the oak. The cooper must give its characteristic to each barrel by reproducing a precise heating profile. He must use all his experience, controlling the intensity of the fire of his brazier and the time of heating.
Na zdravie (Cheers!)