As evidenced by our adage at Paso Wine Barrels of ‘all barrels, all the time’ along with maybe too many ideas in our heads, this fictional yarn is about French barrels that make their way to the Americas. This may eventually be a book, but we wanted to offer our fans and readers a first look – chapter-by-chapter.
Bernard, or Bernie as he becomes, has a long journey ahead of him with ordeals underlying the predicament with wine barrels – they are attractive to start and help make great wines, but then after their use, most anything can and does happen to these once beautiful crafted oak barrels. We chronicle the life of this majestic and beautiful French oak wine barrel along with the trials and tribulations over many years. Also, this tale will take into account his other wine barrel friends and a near death experience with a dramatic rescue that could save his life.
Ron Hier wrote the main story with Daryle Hier helping and adding to the tale. Daryle and Jo Hier are the editors. Follow along and hopefully you’ll have fun and learn a little something about the world of wine barrels … from the barrel’s perspective.
In The Beginning
South of Paris, among the principal stands of oaks in the middle of France and the French forests, are some of the best white oak trees in all of Europe, if not the world. To the west near the Atlantic Ocean on the Garonne River is Bordeaux, one of the larger cities in France but more importantly one of the great wine regions of the world.
It is here that Bernard the wine barrel was born in a cooperage (barrel manufacturing plant). At that same time, three other barrels: Henri, Francois and Mael were also born. Bernard’s first words to his friends was “Bonjour mes amis, je suis Bernard le tonneau de vin” or “Hello my friends, I am Bernard the wine barrel.”
After he was made, upon examination Cooper (the fellow that was in charge of building Bernard) declared him another handsome French made oak wine barrel, with all of his parts in good shape. His staves were beautiful, his head, chime and croze (very end of the staves), all in good order, with his steel hoops fine and his stave joints perfect.
Shortly after final inspection, Cooper built a fire inside of him (don’t worry it’s okay, this happens with most new barrels and it doesn’t hurt), it’s called “toasting” and according to Cooper it made Bernard a better barrel capable of producing beautiful wine. Said Bernard after the extraordinary process, “Look at me, here I am a brand new barrel and I’m already toasted.”
He was indeed a new and beautiful barrel but as it was for all other wine barrels, they don’t stay in the cooperage very long and Cooper was getting ready to send them away soon. Bernard said the four friends should call themselves the Four Musketeers – “One for all, all for one” he encouraged, along with “En avant”, meaning onward.
These French oak barrels were very fine and tighter than other white oaks, giving the qualities that ensure flavors to a wine that are more subtle, yet silkier than other countries and regions. The Musketeers were all synonymous in their quality, great-looks and noble pride as French oak barrels and that wherever they were going, they would try to stay together and always keep themselves presentable and make France proud – but this would be easier said than done.
Excited about the idea of being part of another great Bordeaux wine, France would not be these particular barrel’s final destination. Bernard was stacked in a warehouse on end with a bunch of other barrels and after looking around, much to his surprise, his friends, Henri, Francois and Mael were not there. He knew then that the Four Musketeers were separated and had not even had a chance to become close friends. What now?
Great wines are made in oak barrels and great wine is likely in the four Musketeers future. Still, Bernard and friends would discover soon enough that they were in for quite a world-wind ride, creating fine wines as some of the best oak barrels on Earth. But what awaits in a new world?
Ron and Daryle W. Hier