Scientific barrel making

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Radoux is one of France’s leading coopers. It is part of the Oeneo Group that dominates the industry. On July 6 they launched their new invention called Radoux OakScan at a presentation in Paris. This is a technique that makes it possible to rapidly and with precision measure the tannin contents of the oak staves that goes into the making of the barrel. Radoux calls it simply “revolutionary”. “There are already some methods that allows you to measure the tannin with chemical analysis in laboratories. But that takes time, is costly and is not necessarily very precise” they say. The technology used for OakScan is called SPIR, which stands for Spectrométrie proche infrarouge, near-infrared spectronomy (“near” meaning that it is close to visible light). It’s a technology that is already used in food production, for example to measure the protein contents in milk and the acid level in wine, and also in the pharmaceutical and medical industry to measure e.g. haemoglobin levels in blood.

Radoux has already since some time been selling their barrels with a “porosity” specification (medium grain, fine grain, super-fine grain…) instead of the more traditional provenance specification (Allier, Vosges,…) used by most other tonnelleries. The thinking is that the finer the grain, the more intense are the aromas. But even within each category the tannin levels can vary substantially. Starting last week, when the system was put into production, all staves going into a Radoux barrel will be measured with SPIR which will allow Radoux to make a more precise classification of the staves. The barrique buyer (the winemaker or oenologist) will have more reliable information of the tannin contents and character of the barrel and can make more informed choices when deciding on what barrels to use for aging his wines. www.radoux.fr

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