Oak and Cognac, a perfect match made in heaven. An article about Cognac barrels cooperage by Raphaëlle Le Baud.
From the forest to stave wood
The cooper wisely chooses among the finest century-old trees. For two long years, the stave wood is left to dry in a wood yard where rain washes away the tannins. “The cellar master ages the wine spirit, we age the oak”, explains Thierry Doreau, director of Doreau Tonneliers.
Wood staves become staves thanks to the cooper
The barrel takes shape once the staves are raised into position and the hoops are placed. The barrel comes to life thanks to the work of the hammer, while its soul is awakened by the heat of the flames. The toasting degree depends on the specific requirements of each Cognac house, along with the type of oak (wide or tight growth rings), its grain and the terroir. The cooper toasts the barrel, guided by the aromas released by the oak, including brioche, vanilla, and coffee.
Oak, a key element to Cognac’s excellence
The wine spirit is fresh and translucent when put in the barrel. Its first encounter with the oak gives it an amber color with gold highlights. The romance lasts between six months and a year, until the cellar master decides that the wine spirit is ready to meet an older barrel, previously used to age Cognac, which will take care of it for the next fifty, or even one hundred years. Wine spirit and oak continue their love affair, but in a slower, more discreet way. The cooper is always on hand to monitor the process, to maintain and repair the barrels, ensuring the oak always supports the Cognac in its neverending quest for excellence.