Topic of the Week 6/27/2019 - Master

A few gems identified from Beaune last week from , , and .

This week: Forests of France used for barrel production

Name 4, their location and qualities.

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  • I’ll chime in Jeremy!

    There are two species, Quercus robur, also known pedunculate or English oak, and its relative Quercus petraea, also known as the sessile oak. Both grow in the six main French forests known for oak: Limousin, Vosges, Nevers, Bertranges, Allier, and Tronçais (a sub-section of Allier).

    “Oak is rich in tyloses, or the structures that plug the tubes. This is what makes it particularly good for holding liquids, as the path of the liquid through the wood is blocked by these tyloses. American white oaks, such as Quercus alba, are the richest in these tyloses, which is why the barrel staves can be sawn into shape without risk of leakage. With European oaks there are fewer tyloses so the wood is more porous and must be split to follow the tubes and then bent so that all the tubes are parallel to the stave, thus minimizing leakage. Coopers do not usually distinguish the two species in their workshops. Like wine-makers they tend to pay more attention to forest location and grain size than oak species.” 

    www.knoxbarrels.com/FAQ.html

    Tight- grain: less porous, and a watertight barrel that releases oak flavor to the wine more slowly. Typically Quercus patrea oak. When the forest is planted with close spacing the trees are said to grow up, rather than out; hence the tighter grains.

    Loosely-grained: tough and coarse, such as oak from Limousin, is more aggressive and imparts stronger flavors. Quercus robur.

    THE MAIN:

    Limousin: western France and close to Cognac. This wood is tannic, more wide-grained, and popular with brandy makers.

    Vosges: eastern France and alongside of Alsace. This is usually tight-grained, though depends truly where it grows on the slope,  and is markedly white in color. Became popular for use in the 1980s.

    Allier & Nevers: 'bois de centre', or wood from the center of France. The wood is usually tight-grained and chosen for both brandy and wine. 

    Tronçais: a subregion of Allier, and considered one of the finest woods to make barrels from, therefore the barrels produced here are used for the aging of the finest and most expensive wines. *also the second approved forest for cognac barrel aging.

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