Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Outstanding Journey: From The River To The Wine

Discovery Day
Wine Tour

In the heart of an authentic vineyard located at Bordeaux’s doors, the Entre-deux-Mers wine region is a true vine ocean which offers the whole range of Bordeaux’s wines. Here, our wine makers will share with you their true passion of the product: unique encounters with connoisseurs, moments of exchange and friendliness! You’ll be driven through a great experience!

9.15 am: Meeting point with the guide at the Bordeaux Tourist Office

9.30 am: Minibus boarding

10.15 am: Visit of the Boutes Cooperage at Beychac et Caillau. You’ll discover the cooper job in its different aspects: from the forest to the barrel! You’ll then have a chance to get inside the craft!
Boutes Cooperage
12.00: Arrival at Chateau de Reignac. You’ll visit the garden of fragrances and live a unique experience which will wake your senses up. Installed close to the Gustave Eiffel hothouse, our delicate selection of fruits and plants will charm you with its subtle and various aromas. This playful promenade will allow you to improve your olfactory memory.

• Tasting of the chateau’s wines in the dovecote dating back to the 16th century. It has been turned into a tower to welcome the tastings.

Chateau de Reignac

• Picnic lunch composed of fresh local specialties
• Visit of the park and the hothouse designed by Gustave Eiffel
• Visit of the wine warehouses combining traditional and modern techniques

3.45 pm: Departure to the Cavernes’s port.

Cavernes’s Port
4.00 pm: You’ll board a launch and sail the Dordogne and Garonne rivers until you reach Bordeaux. During the cruise, you’ll learn about the largest estuary of all Europe enjoying the landscapes: the archipelago in permanent move, the vines falling into the river, the square dipping net, the unique ecosystem...

6.00 pm: Arrival along Bordeaux’s docks, at the pontoon of honor.

Bordeaux’s Docks
This tour is organised by the Entre-deux-Mers TouristOffice with the Chateau de Reignac.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

A New Site for The Boutes Stave Yard

The staves used to make Boutes barrels will now be manufactured in Buxières-les-Mines in the Allier, at a larger site with better transport connections than the old facility in Louroux-de-Bouble, in the same department. The fitting-out of the site and the production areas will help to create optimal working conditions for employees.

The Boutes stave yard is entering a new era. The old, cramped facilities at the current site in Louroux-de-Bouble (Allier) will soon be consigned to the history books. After a lengthy search, the group's management found a new, bigger and more suitable site in Buxières-les-Mines. The new site is also located in the Allier, a department that Boutes was keen to stay in due to its famous dense forests, including not only the Tronçais but also the Marcenat and Grosbois. The new stave yard will be operational from the end of the year.

The management viewed several different sites, but decided on the one in Buxières-les-Mines because of the benefits it had to offer. These include an existing building, a tarmacked car park, easy access to the site via good quality roads (even in snow or ice), a responsive local authority and plenty of available land. The new site gives Boutes more than 5 hectares to play with and will mainly be used for storing undressed timber and rainwater tanks. 'We currently have enough undressed timber stored at this site for a year's worth of production,' explains Eric Barthe, Managing Director of Boutes. 'This wood must be constantly sprayed with water to prevent it from splitting and to protect it from wood-boring insects. We have therefore installed tanks to collect and recycle rainwater.'

The undressed timber is constantly sprayed with water. 'Spraying is carried out 24/7 from the end of March through to mid-November,' explains Pascal Faroux, Boutes' Stave Production Manager. 'To ensure that we have sufficient volumes of water, the rainwater is recycled using a closed circuit. The run-off from spraying is collected and transferred to a settling tank. It then goes back into a storage tank before being sucked up to spray the timber by automatically-controlled pumps fitted with a filtration system. If one of the pumps breaks down, then the other will continue to function as normal, meaning that spraying is not interrupted'. The two main tanks are similar in size to Olympic swimming pools. Beside the tanks are four areas for storing undressed timber that needs to be sprayed, which will stay there for between 8 and 12 months, as well as a stock of dry wood that is ready to be worked immediately.

There are currently no specific plans for one part of the site. 'It may be used to house our stave maturing facility, which is currently located in Marcenat in the south of the Allier. We are not ruling out the possibility of transferring this facility to Buxières,' explains Eric Barthe.

The new Boutes stave yard has larger facilities than those in Louroux-de-Bouble. 'We have extended the existing production workshop from 800 m2 to 1,600 m2,' the Managing Director continues. 'This building therefore offers more space and better working conditions by making it easier to move between workstations and thanks to its insulation and the installation of new machines. We wanted to reduce as much as possible the physical work done by the 15 employees who were transferred from our old site, who have been joined by two newly recruited members of staff.’


An ingenious system has been installed to take quartered wood to the sawyers' workstations so that staff do not have to carry it. 'This manual handling was difficult and dangerous, particularly given that some of our employees are approaching retirement,' observes Pascal Faroux. 'We therefore developed a kind of conveyor belt fitted with "drawers" for transporting and distributing quartered wood. Employees who work with detail saws will simply have to take the quartered wood they need from a drawer that will come straight to their work table at exactly the right height.'

The Boutes stave yard in Buxières also has a new 7 metre edger saw that removes sapwood and bark to leave only the noble material. 'This tool has been specifically designed for staves and has four blades – two fixed and two mobile,' explains Pascal Faroux. 'We also have a new band resaw that splits the quartered wood for quicker, optimal yield, as well as a log debarker. Thanks to this machine, only debarked wood will come into the workshop, saving employees time and creating a safer working environment.’

The overall layout of the site has been designed to ensure that vehicles can move around it in a safe and logical way. 'To the south of the site, we have created an entrance specifically for the lorries that deliver undressed timber in order to minimise the risk of accidents on the road leading to the stave yard,' continues Pascal Faroux. 'These lorries go straight to the wood storage areas. When the time comes to work the wood, the undressed timber is then transferred into the nearby log splitters. Once they have been made, the staves are transferred from the workshop to the loading area located in the northern part of the site. The logistical arrangements are therefore better than those in Louroux-de-Bouble, where the area in which vehicles could manoeuvre was cramped and lorries would often get in one another's way.’

In total, Boutes has invested more than 3 million euros in this new site. With room to expand, plenty of space, good transport connections and less manual labour required, the new stave yard has many advantages over the one in Louroux-de-Bouble. 'In addition to increasing our production, we also wanted to provide our employees with optimal working conditions,' explains Eric Barthe, a view shared by Pascal Faroux, 'For me, Buxières is a little piece of paradise in the middle of the forests!' The commune's industrial zone is called 'La Croix du Chêne' (the oak cross), so it seems only fitting that it is now home to a stave yard that works only with this noble wood.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Staves with the BOUTES quality guarantee

Boutes now offers staves created from the same wood which we use to make our barrels, with an equally rigorous manufacturing process. A move towards diversification which is all about quality.

A new product has recently been added to the Boutes range: staves, produced to the same rigorous criteria as our branded barrels. “Our aim is not to compete with the major players who have been trading in this sort of alternative product for a long time, and in great quantities”, explains Julien Ségura, Director of Sales and Marketing at Boutes. “In developing our range of staves, our aim was to meet the demands of some of our international customers, who were very satisfied with the organoleptic properties of our barrels and wanted to find these same qualities in products used in the production of wines which are not barrel-matured.”

Boutes Staves are in no way inferior to the familiar Boutes quality standard. “We drew upon our experience and expertise as coopers to develop a range of staves which shouldn't be considered as ‘alternative products’”, continues Julien Ségura. “but rather as cooperage accessories. This diversification allows us to promote the reputation of a high-quality primary material which we already possess. Of all the ‘alternative’ products, staves are those which are most similar to our barrels in terms of the quality of the wood, and that’s why they are the only such product that we offer.”

The timber used to produce Boutes staves is exactly the same as that which goes to make our barrels. In both cases, their quality is the result of a rigorous selection policy. Produced from the stavewood-standard timber used in barrel-making, our staves are dried and matured in the open air for a period of 6 to 24 months.

In order to ensure the consistency of the desired aromatic profile, we toast our staves in an infra-red heat tunnel, and not in a traditional oven. We can thus offer various levels of toast. As Julien Ségura explains: “Varying the speed at which the staves pass through the tunnel, and the intensity of the infra-red waves, allows us to create a product which corresponds very precisely to the client’s wishes.”

Boutes Staves measure 95 cm by 5 cm, with a thickness of 1 cm. They are delivered in thermo-sealed packs of 22. Each packet represents a total contact surface area of 2.5 m², with each packet providing enough staves for 1.3 barrels.

Using staves in the maturing of wine is, of course, not the same as authentic barrel-maturing. Staves do not allow for such a precise oxygenation, but they do have a genuine effect on the aromatic complexity, volume and structure of a wine. This type of product is aimed at types of wine not usually matured in barrels. The biggest markets for staves are the USA and southern hemisphere wine producers, such as Australia, South Africa and New-Zealand. But this practice has been making some progress in France since the regulations governing wine-making were modified to allow the use of staves under certain conditions. In any case, the use of this type of product in wine-making is always subject to the legislation in force in your country and region of production!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

ISO 14 001: Boutes committed to reinforce safety

Boutes’ ISO 14 001 certification was renewed last December. But this is no reason for us to be complacent. This quality process has to be one of continual improvement. Managers at Boutes have taken the initiative to include an entire section on employee safety in the certification.

In January 2010 Boutes was certified to ISO 14001 environmental management standard. Last December, this certification was renewed, to the satisfaction of both the managers and the staff, but the process does not stop there, far from it! “We have to maintain this certification, we have to continue to motivate the staff, and improve our environmental management still further”, explained Julien Ségura,commercial and marketing manager, especially as the managers have now decided to add a new section to the certification, based on employee safety.

“This is not a requirement of standard ISO 14 001, but we believe that it is important, in addition to environmental safety, to add further commitments in terms of human safety, like ensuring that work is not too physically demanding, for example. We did not want to restrict ourselves just to the minimum required by the law or by the standard.” The company decided to work closely with the  taff to identify existing risks and look for ways of coping with them. Every Wednesday, over a period of one and a half months, all the employees, including the administrative staff, worked together in small groups. “The employees were certainly best placed to come up with solutions for coping with risks”, observed Julien Ségura. “This is the main strength of the company’s plan. The employees really put a lot of work into this”, pointed out Philippe Trouvé, head of quality, safety and environment. “It is true that on a subject like this we have to consult with the employees: they are the ones who have experienced back problems, tendonitis, injuries from iron filings, for example.”

Current regulations state that it is compulsory to produce a single risk assessment document, which should be revised every year, and updated whenever necessary, if new machines or new processes are introduced. When the employees met together in their working groups they checked the risks that had been identified for each work station and assessed the dangers according to their frequency and their seriousness. They also proposed solutions, “for example, a safety chain to prevent the temporary hoop that is put round the barrel from opening suddenly during toasting, fastened quite simply with a pin”, noted the quality manager. The employees’suggestions were then studied by the managers. For the time being, a decision has been taken to build a loading platform. “This represents an investment of 20,000 to 30,000 euros. We do not have a safe platform for loading barrels into the containers. Loading is carried out at three levels, and can be at a height of as much as 4 metres, so there is a considerable risk that a barrel could fall onto the employee, even though very specific instructions about good loading practice are provided.”

The safety element that Boutes has included in its ISO 14 001 certification also covers other points, like maintaining machines in perfect working order and standard compliant, checking electrical circuits regularly, fire prevention measures (thermography, drills), etc.

“This entire process represents a major improvement, and one which is of great benefit to the company and the staff”, summed up Julien Ségura. This entire operation and all the resources that the cooperage has put in place to meet the general requirements of standard ISO 14 001 will be considered during our “practice” audit planned for next autumn, two months before the annual compliance audit carried out by the Afnor group. To date, Boutes is the first cooperage in France to have obtained this international certification, which demonstrates our total commitment to respect for the environment and also, from now on, to maximum safety at work.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Solutions under scrutiny to remedy cracking

Expertise and Experience
What can be done to fight against the risk of cracking that is always a possibility on barrels? The Boutes cooperage is giving the problem its full attention and a number of possible responses are being tested out in the workshop. Cracking is a well-known phenomenon in all companies working in cooperage. “Wood is a living material and can always hold some surprises. The term cracking refers to the micro-cracks that appear in the most curved part of the barrel, the bulge, where the wood is under the greatest strain, especially around the bung-hole. They can appear visibly during production of the barrel or may be impossible to detect. It sometimes happens that cracking only occurs after one or two years,” explains Boutes Director Eric Besson. “The problem can even cause the stave to snap, although that is rather rare.” “Rather than having to deal with the problem once the barrel is on the client’s premises, we prefer to address it at its source.” Pre-toasting using an oak-wood brazier, over which the future barrel is placed, makes it possible to bend the staves. Cracking can affect all barrels, especially those with lighter toasting to allow the terroir and fruit to express themselves to the full in the wine aged in them. “This milder toast tends to leave the wood under greater tension and stress. Putting in the wine can then create further strain and a risk of cracking,” notes Philippe Trouvé, Quality, Safety and Environment Manager at Boutes. “We are working on this problem to eliminate the risk, while keeping our toasting profiles and the typical character of our barrels, like the Grande Réserve.” The cooperage has already taken measures in recent years to combat cracking. In terms of hygrometry, the staves of the barrel must not exceed a rate of 16%. “We also make sure that we do not exceed a width of 10.5cm for the stave with the bung-hole in it. The wider the stave, the higher the risk of micro-cracks, because the strain on the stave is all the greater,” points out Eric Besson. “To drill the bung-hole, we use a tool that goes more gently on the wood fibres, and to ‘cauterise’ the rim of the hole, we have had a machine specially made, that burns and evens out the area all at the same time, applying a backwards and forwards movement.”

Use of Lids

Cracking on the bung-hole
Another technique is also being tested at the cooperage: placing lids on the barrels. “After toasting, the barrel is left to stand. Its internal temperature remains high, so the heat passes through the wood and is also released via the open top, the ‘head’ of the barrel,” explains Philippe Trouvé. “By placing a wooden lid over the ‘head’ of the barrel, we force the heat to remain concentrated inside the barrel and escape slowly through the staves. The shaping of the barrel under the effect of the heat can thus be extended, thereby reducing the strain on the wood.” “The idea is to make the barrels more supple before they are trimmed by machine,” adds Eric Besson. Test protocols have been devised, with the barrels being placed under lids for various periods of time. Measurements are then taken to assess the risk of cracking. “We have created instruction sheets for these manufacturing inspection procedures,” explains Delphine Hubert. “Several hours after toasting, once the barrels are cold and arrive at the workstation where the ends are fitted, their head perimeters are measured. Each model of barrel has its perimeter. The measurements are taken on the ‘closed’ barrels, with their four working hoops,and then the same measurements are repeated with the barrels ‘open,’ meaning without the upper hoops.” "Once the hoops have been removed from the upper part, the barrel opens out slightly, as the wood tends to straighten out and return to its initial shape,” explains Philippe Trouvé. “The difference between the perimeter of the ‘closed barrel’ and that of the ‘open barrel’ must not exceed 8 centimetres. “Above this threshold, we consider that there is a risk of cracking,” says the Quality Manager. Series of tests will be conducted on the whole range of Boutes barrels. Their results will then be analysed to determine the right balance between the open and closed barrel perimeters, and the duration and characteristics of the toasting.