Looking for Robb Report UK? Click here to visit our UK site.

Every Painstaking Step It Takes to Make the World’s Best Wine Casks

Superior grapes require superior oak casks. Radoux uses old-school and high-tech methods for the best barrel results.

Tonnellerie Radoux wine barrel Courtesy of Tonnellerie Radoux

Just as great wine is a product of the vineyard, exceptional wine barrels start in the forest. Continuing a tradition that has been in practice for two millennia, the artisans at Tonnellerie Radoux rely on both experience and technology to select oak trees that will be handcrafted into some of the world’s finest wine casks. In 1947, Robert Radoux established a barrel-repair workshop just northeast of Bordeaux, in Jonzac, France; 30 years later, his son, Christian, took over and expanded the business to encompass production, before formally founding Tonnellerie Radoux in 1982.

Now one of the globe’s preeminent barrel makers, Radoux in 1998 became the first in the category to trade on the Paris Stock Exchange. A decade later it launched Oakscan, technology that instantly measures the level of polyphenols—which have a crucial impact on wine’s tannic structure and flavor—contained in barrel staves (the strips of wood that form the vessel). The company was acquired by industry leader François Frères Cooperage in 2012.

Although some Radoux casks are made in California’s Central Valley with American oak, the majority come from Jonzac, in the heart of the Cognac region, from old-growth oak harvested in the center of the country. In the same way that fine wine is still largely made by hand, barrel-making is a manual process, performed by artisans with an average of 20 to 30 years of experience.

Radoux’s clients include such notable wineries as Napa Valley’s Peju, Château Mouton Rothschild, in Bordeaux, Italy’s Marchesi Antinori and Spain’s Vega Sicilia. “We know from over seven decades in the industry,” says Craig Holme, national sales manager for Tonnellerie Radoux USA, “that our meticulously sourced wood and our handcrafting of that wood into barrels is an extremely important part of fine winemaking for our clients.”

More Wine