Sommelier Society of America
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Le Sommelier

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The Sommelier Society of America blog

Cooperage & the Toasting Process

I'm Jordan Ross, today I am conducting the Cooperage Class at the Sommelier Society. Oak is a fascinating topic, and cooperage, a cooper is a person that produces oak barrels. There's a lot of talk about the origin of the wood being the most important factor in determining the flavor, which forest, whether it's Nievre, Tronçer, Allier, I've learned that what's quite interesting is the process of producing the oak barrel is actually believed to be more important in determining the final flavor profile of a barrel. That would be the toasting process. This occurs over a 45 minute period more or less, over an open flame. What happens is the flame toasts the wood, just like crème brûlée is toasted over a flame and the cream changes it’s flavor profile dramatically. Same thing happens with an oak barrel. That toasting process is unique across different coopers. Each one has their own secret technique and that’s one of the biggest factors that separate one cooper from another and why some winemakers prefer one barrel make over another, because of this proprietary process called toasting . Cheers!