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Bouchard Cooperages: International brokers of fine quality oak wine barrels

Bel Air


Bel Air is a relatively young cooperage located Bel Airin Bordeaux with an annual production of 10,000 barrels. It was created by a like-minded group of Bordelaise winery owners, led by the Groupe Taillan (Chateau Gruaud Larose, Chateau Ferriere) and Groupe Roederer, to produce an ultra premium barrel in which the focus is on the wood selection.

They offer barrels based on the flavour and tannin profile of the wood, rather than the tightness of grain, a very different and intriguing concept. To this end, they continually taste the wood during the aging process in their stave yard to determine not only the structural category of barrel that it corresponds to, but also the ideal seasoning time:

  • Elégance—this barrel is especially suited to white wine and fragrant, more delicate reds. The oak selected is softer on the palate with a lighter structure that respects the wine's pure varietal aromas. It provides volume and roundness on the palate.
  • Révélation—this oak selection is chosen for more classical white and red wines that will spend a longer time in barrel and benefit from more richness and depth.
  • Volupté—this is a powerful, expressive barrel made from more highly structured oak staves with more "substance." Reduced toasting is recommended to retain the more powerful aromatics and tannins present in the wood.
  • Entre 2—combines the softness of Eastern European Oak with the classic character of French Oak. Ideal for shorter ageing periods.

The directors at Bel Air find that a sensory evaluation is the best way to judge the wood, and do regular "oak tastings" from tea-like extracts made from oak shavings of specific pallets of wood. It's a fascinating tasting process, quite similar to assessing young red wine, in that not only are aromatics and flavours evaluated, but also the texture of the wood on the palate. Oak expresses such subtle taste characteristics as balance, roundness, tautness, power, bitterness, and astringency, with fruity or herbaceous overtones. Its texture can be silky or angular, and oak can be full-bodied or tightly-wound on the palate. And the comparison to tasting wine does not end there, as Bel Air explains that "terroir, aging, and blending all play an essential role." The taste of oak and its tactile sensations can vary from one forest to another. Bel Air selects plots from the most famous forests in order to control the quality and the taste of their wood – from the forest to the barrel. Typicity of character from the barrel is what they judge to be most important. They have a fantastic website well worth a look,, or follow the link from the Bouchard Cooperages website.

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