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Alexis Nicolai
 
December 9, 2016 | Alexis Nicolai

Emeritus Barrel Program

This time of year, things have quieted down at the winery, the grapes have been fermented and now our Pinot Noir is aging peacefully in French oak barrels for the next 8 months. The most important part of wine making, after the grapes, is the choice of oak barrel and Emeritus wine is aged only in French Oak barrels.

Most wineries go through a sales person when selecting their barrels, however, Brice and our Winemaker Nicolas, agree that it’s important to be involved every step of the way. The trees that are used to make barrel staves are inherently inconsistent so Brice and Nicolas travel to France each year to make sure they are selecting the best trees possible.

The French government owns and maintains the forests used to make wine barrels. These forests were strategically planted by Napoleon to supply wood for his Naval ships. The government holds two auctions every year where foresters (or Merrandier in French) can purchase trees. The trees must be at least 150 years old before they can be auctioned!

Brice has been working with the same Merrandier for over 30 years. Once the trees are purchased they are milled and cut into staves. The staves are then air seasoned in the Merrandier’s yard (not at the cooperage) for three years. They are not stacked higher than one meter tall to ensure they are all exposed to the elements. Aging the staves exposes the wood to rain and sun which leaches the harsh resins and other impurities from the wood taming the oak.

In addition to the relationship and communication with the forester, it’s also very important to oversee how the barrels are fabricated. Brice has been working with the three different Coopers in France for most of his wine career: D and J, Remond and Rousseau. How the barrels are assembled and the varying degrees of toast can impact the flavors the oak will impart on the wine, so it’s very important to make sure the barrels are carefully toasted.

Nicolas finds it important to match the barrel to each vineyard block. He will use a lighter style barrel to age a lighter bodied wine that’s grown in a more sandy soil, or he’ll use a more robust barrel for our fuller bodied wines.

Our wine is aged in a combination of new, used and neutral barrels for about 10 months before bottling. The rule that Nicolas follows is that Oak in your wine should be like salt in your food. It’s there to enhance the flavors and add complexity, but it should not overpower the nuance and character of the grapes.                 

Winemaker, Nicolas in our barrel room  Taste testing our Pinot from barrel

                        

 

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