Our Craft

Classic Oak Products offers a prestigious selection of quality French, Hungarian and American oak barrels through its complete range of François Frères, Demptos Brive & Trust barrels, Foudrier casks and vats, Quercus oak adjuncts and alternatives. For almost two centuries we’ve been crafting barrels, assisting some of history’s most lauded wine brands, while spearheading new product developments in Barriclean barrel cleaning and sterilisation.

The Anatomy of a Barrel


It is important to understand the forests to know the good regions. This is a real skill as we buy the trees standing up, and for barrels, we utilise up to the first branch only. The selection of our wood is made from premium Quercus Petraea and Quercus Robur oak forests in France and Hungary and from Quercus Alba in Southern Missouri.


The start of our quality control process. We are close to 100% self-sufficient in the production of our French and Hungarian oak staves. For over 30 years, we have been sourced exclusively for American oak from one area within Southern Missouri.


Our cooperages naturally air dry the staves, which they purchase from our mills. During the natural air drying process, the oak undergoes a chemical change through the propagation of a mould, Aureobasidum pullulans. This changes the oak from green to dry wood as our minimum period for air-drying is 24 months.


During the life of the tree, the Spring wood provides the nutrients for the next year’s growth and is what we refer to as grain. It is through the grain’s cellular structure that continuous penetration of oxygen occurs, releasing extractable phenol compounds which interact with the wine and influence the aromatics and the structure.


Toasting causes interactions with these compounds; cellulose, hemicellulose, lignin, tannins, and oak lactones. The toast controls the concentrations of these compounds.

When heated, hemicellulose caramelises imparting notes of brown sugar, caramel, or toffee. With Lignin, the more a barrel is toasted, the more it adds warmth and cinnamon notes. Oak lactones are responsible for the woody/coconut flavours, the longer the toast, the less of an impact. Tannins influence bitterness and mouthfeel, most of the more harsh tannins are removed during seasoning.


Generally for our French and Hungarian oak barrels, and especially for medium-bodied wines, we do not recommend toasted heads. For our American oak barrels, toasted heads are strongly recommended to balance the impact of Quercus Alba.

The Technical Barrel

Role of the Demptos Research Centre

As a consequence of the work and publishing of many defining papers on the interaction of wine, wood and oxygen by Dr Vivas and the staff of the Research Centre at Bordeaux University, Demptos has gained a qualitative understanding of the elements of the barrel. This knowledge has allowed them to develop barrels to achieve a specific outcome and/or a definitive style.

Why a Barrel?

Public perception

Invariably the two most common photos of winemakers are either with a bottle of their wine in hand, or standing next to a barrel. We all understand the romance the consumer has for the barrel: it is a unique vessel, and is an environmental good news story.

The benefits for your wine

On the basis that we recognise that “fruit is king”, our goal is to work with our customers to enable them to meet their aspirations for their wine. Through utilising elements of quality of sourcing, notion of grain and toasting, the barrel can enhance the wine’s aromatics, mouthfeel, texture and length. One benefit we do not highlight enough as a community, is the ongoing development of the wine post-bottling, which is a direct result of the ellagitannins and phenols transferred through the barrel maturation process.

Benefits to the wine industry

One of the key challenges to the wine community is to grow its premium segment, and the use of new barrels can be of benefit in both the production of this quality of wine and its marketing.