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Hints of jade stone? Bordeaux barrel maker launches new technique

A cooperage in Bordeaux has launched barrels 'toasted' with jade and lava stones to offer wineries an alternative means of using oak during winemaking.

Bordeaux-based Surtep has launched oak barrels that have been ‘toasted’ using a patented heating system and jade stone instead of open fire.

The move follows the cooperage’s launch of barrels toasted using lava stones, launched in mid-2018.

The group, which also produces high-end, classically toasted oak barrels, said its ‘BioOak’ range offers winemakers a fresh method of using new oak without overpowering the fruit and expression of terroir.

Several dozen wineries, including some high-profile châteaux in Bordeaux, were understood to have placed orders for barrels heated with lava stones.

‘We sold 280 BioOak barrels in 2019, and most importantly our clients are happy,’ Thomas Moussié, Surtep’s CEO, told Decanter.com.

He said jade stone has been added to the range ‘because it is a good conductor of heat and so gives better control over the toast’, and because it is highly prized in China; a market the group wants to target.

While there are myriad ways for wineries to manage oak influence on their wines, Moussié said BioOak offers a new alternative.

He said the barrels can also enhance minerality in wines, are more eco-friendly than burning wood, offer greater precision on toast levels and provide better working conditions for coopers.

An electric heating system warms up the stones, which then toast the barrels from the inside as they rotate.

However, production is small and it was anticipated that wineries might use a small number of the barrels for certain sections of their harvest.

Moussié said Surtep’s patented process could also be applied to other precious and semi-precious gemstones. 

That includes diamonds, ‘but you would need around 60 kilos’, he said.

From our archive:

Cooperage and the art of oak ageing (2014)


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