Visiting the Tonnellerie Baron workshop means observing techniques and processes dedicated to the transformation of logs into staves. The know-how with natural precision of the workshop workers makes us wonder about the training and transmission of these artistic techniques. Questions for Christophe Cartier, who calls himself the pseudonym “Tobal”, Workshop manager at Tonnellerie Baron.

Christophe, you are the workshop manager at Tonnellerie Baron, can you tell us about your background and the workshop for which you are responsible ?

I started my first year at Tonnellerie Baron, at the end of my training as a Carpenter, in 1998. It was in 2000 that I became a cooper. From 2014 to 2018, I held the position of Wood Manager (seasoning yard and stavemill), in 2018, I became Workshop Manager. Today, I manage 24 employees (qualified coopers, experienced coopers and apprentices), all of them versatile, and am in constant contact with support functions: technical management, human resources and administrative management. In the workshop and with 4 department managers (wood, toasting, stock and shipping), we coordinate the daily production, from the recording of the order to the shipping of the barrel.

What are the different positions in the workshop ?

The workshop is divided into three areas :

Cooperage workshops

What are the skills and qualities required to be a good cooper ?

Knowing wood and machining is of course essential. The desire to learn and then to pass on and allow the succession of ancestral know-how. Be in good physical condition and have natural aptitudes such as hand-eye coordination and dexterity, which can also be learned over time, however.

How do you recruit? Are you having difficulties ?

Yes, it is a reality, we are short of manpower and have only one training center in the region. Resources are therefore scarce and constitute the breeding ground for all cooperages. Our requirements are none other than being a graduate or having experience in the wood industry. The attention to detail and the tailor-made approach that we demand of our employees are the result of several years of work in the cooperage. From young graduates to spontaneous applications, we study all profiles because the success of workshop work is also a matter of complementarity. The working conditions are quite trying and we attach real importance to the human values of mutual assistance, versatility and satisfaction with a job well done.

How is the training of the young coopers who join the workshop going?

Apprentices prepare for a CAP in 2 years. They alternate one week of lessons and three weeks in a company where they are familiarized with tools such as hoop drivers and hammers. The very first step is to assemble the staves: the cooper striking technique. He will then discover all the manufacturing steps. In the Tonnellerie Baron workshop, we have a training space, where each apprentice makes a small-size barrel before entering the life-size universe of the barrel.

What are the prospects for the cooper’s profession ?

Years of experience allow the cooper to grow within the company where he can become responsible for a work area, for example. He can also train young coopers by passing on his knowledge, know-how and techniques. Some even end up creating their own cooperage (creation and / or repair of barrels).

Would you define your profession as a technical or artistic profession ?

Knowing how to make a barrel remains an art resulting from an ancestral artisanal heritage, but without technique, the barrel is nothing. You have to know how to shape the staves, toast to the right extent, assemble and finish perfectly. The dexterity, the skill in the art of handling the tool to respect the required quality makes cooperage a technically artistic or artistically technical profession !

What do you think is the definition of a “good barrel” ?

The right barrel is one that fully meets the customer’s requirements. She is the one who will have scrupulously respected the specifications: o The correct selection of the origin of the wood o An irreproachable hooping and finishing o The ideal proportions, beautiful at first glance o Absolute toasting quality o Flawless reproducibility that makes our reputation The barrel should make the wine more complex while respecting its identity.