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Culture

Exhibition : The cooper’s art

22 February 2018

La Grange exhibition space showcases the art of cooperage but also the art of stave mill, through the presentation of works from Charlois collections. This exhibition immerses the visitor in the heart of the cooper’s universe and its immutable gestures, while emphasizing the importance of interactions between the barrel and its content, between oak and grapes.

La Grange exhibition space showcases the art of cooperage but also the art of stave mill, through the presentation of works  from Charlois collections. This exhibition immerses the visitor in the heart of the cooper’s universe and its immutable gestures, while emphasizing the importance of interactions between the barrel and its content, between oak and grapes.

Initially designed as a simple container to facilitate the transport and storage of liquids, the barrel indeed appears as essential in the winemaking process, allowing exceptional wines to achieve excellence.

The first scientific studies to reveal the contribution of wood to wine during wine maturation are those led by Louis Pasteur.  In his studies about wine (1866), the scientist highlights the phenomenon of controlled oxygenation and states that « the use of wooden barrels, a practice that entails […] a slow and sensitive aeration of the wine, is a necessity more by the conditions of ageing of the wine than by the convenience that presents this nature of vases to preserve it. Waterproof vases made of glass or terracotta would not be suitable. The wine would remain green unless there were frequent rackings. »

Since the 1970’s, numerous scientific studies have confirmed the decisive role of oak wood on wine, especially in the evolution of phenolic compounds of great red long-keeping wines. The results of these experiments have given a second wind to the French cooperage, seriously competed by concrete or stainless steel containers.

The ageing in oak barrels thus brings a greater complexity and a greater aromatic and tannic richness to the wine, but also to the spirits and the eaux-de-vie like Cognac, Armagnac or Whiskey. This is the revelation of the « mystery of the universal concordance » expressed by Joseph de Pesquidoux in an article of l’Illustration (1927) about Armagnac and the black oaks of the region : «  The cooper exercises here a vocation. Able to discern the wood fiber, its purity and its grain, he judges by its smell. Our split oaks have their own smell […] as if this oak and this vine […] were destined for all time one to elaborate and the other to collect this elixir. »

(Illustration from Jean Duplessis-Bertaux)

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