The “Tonnellerie François et Frères”
By recognizing the importance of casks in the aging of wine, it is essential to also recognize the importance of the one that produces them.
Not long ago, I had the privilege of visiting, during my trip in Burgundy at Saint-Romain, the “tonnellerie François et frères” that is more than a century old and that has always kept the same passion and the same strive for perfection. They have managed to unite this disappearing art with new technologies, allowing them to preserve the artisan tradition of crafting casks.
This family business, located in the heart of Burgundy, was founded in 1910 by Joseph François, the grandfather of Jean, before it was taken over by the sons Robert and Henri. It is them that will create the company, in 1942, as we know it today. With the arrival of Jean, the third generation, the exchanges with French producers increased tenfold, particularly with Burgundy producers. It is with his wife Noëlle that Jean has developed the international side of the business in 1972 with the first François et Frères casks exported in Italy to Gaja and in California to Robert Mondavi as early as in 1980. Today, they are distributed on five continents. The casks are created on demand with the best essences of oak, which allows for the creation of exceptional products, in France and around the world.
Just like the fine wines that they will help to age, the wood is selected meticulously, and is then dried in the best conditions to ensure that it can reach its fullest potential. All of these conditions are reunited in Saint-Romain, a small village located in the heights of the Côte de Beaune. Far from the urban world, the wood can reach their peak after two to four years in this environment that is considered the best of France. Rain, wind and sun are all present in just the right amount, alongside a drying process that is 100% natural, meaning that no other intervention is required.
By dehydrating itself naturally, the wood becomes much more impervious. The constant rain takes care of all the elements that could bring bitterness to the wine; also, the wood can develop complex aromatics. With all these years of experience, it is of no surprise that they have gained the reputation of producing casks that are blessed with a much better longevity than many other available products.
Destined for the production of exceptional wines, the François et Frères product range is essentially based on the time that the wood is left to dry.
The quality of the François et Frères casks is the result of a constant selection and control process. Four types of casks are offered:
The Classic, where the wood is dried for 18 to 24 months. This is the perfect duration for a large sampling of wines aged following the traditional method.
The Exclusive, produced with oak naturally dried for 30 to 36 months; these casks are destined for wines that require a higher percentage of new casks or for longer aging durations.
The Rare, with a drying period of 40 to 48 months. This is the quintessence of the know-how and the experience of François Frères. These casks will reveal wines of an incredible finesse and precision.
For the last, but not least, the Privilege, a product that represents the culmination of their partnerships with many clients. The clients bring their own wood to them, in order to age them for at least three years before they are put into the hands of the François et Frères experts.
They also meticulously select their woods in the best locations that are then crafted in their own stave mills in order to extract the noblest pieces; these masterful techniques are fully perfected!
Before the process of casks begins, the hygrometry of the resource is meticulously controlled. During all the process, multiple quality controls are present to ensure that all the conditions are respected. François et Frères are proud to offer casks that can be used with the utmost confidence by their clients. Since its inception and through the generations, this family business has kept its know-how, which has certainly given it enough of a reputation that allows them to be known worldwide.