The surname Torner is linked to the trade of barrel making and selling since 1739, when Simó Torner married Teresa Estalella. Agustí Torner, the current manager, is the 8th generation. Not much has changed with respect to the barrel making process. The barrel workshop was located in Vilafranca, and all the work was carried out outside. This has indeed changed. Now they work in a huge warehouse in Sant Cugat Sesgarrigues, but the barrels are made in the same way, some processes have been mechanised, but the essence is exactly the same. 

Torner is a small barrel making and selling company which produces on demand. They work with different woods: chestnut wood, acacia wood, French oak wood, American oak wood, cherry wood… Different sizes: 200, 300, 400, 500… Different toasts: light, medium, plus… Always depending on what their customers ask for, and, as everyone knows: each to their own! 

The wood they receive from the sawmills is kept outside for at least a couple of years so that it dries out, loses its astringency, and improves in sweetness. It must be in contact with the elements: air, sun and water, Jaume explains. Over time, the wood can lose some fibre, and it is more difficult to tame, but it improves in sweetness, elegance, and fineness. 

Jaume Ramos, the person in charge, is the one who takes care of us and teaches us everything. He is 56 years old; he was 16 when he started working as a cooper. He tells us that, when he started, the wineries only used chestnut wood and some French oak wood. Chestnut wood was the cheapest wood, and it worked well. But, little by little, oak wood was introduced, due to the demands of consumers, until the situation was completely changed. However, winemakers and consumers are now asking again for more diversity, and this means that they are working with traditional wood again, this is how they call chestnut wood; along with acacia wood, cherry tree wood… without forgetting the French and American oak wood. 

Jaume makes us realise that each type of wood has different characteristics and, therefore, a different influence on the wine grown inside the barrel. So, for example, the sweetest wood is the cherry tree wood, and the most porous wood, the chestnut tree wood (which has a very fast growth process and, consequently, more separated growth rings). The most consistent and heaviest wood is the American oak wood, and the thinnest wood, the French oak wood… The wine, therefore, changes depending on the different characteristics of each wood. 

The barrels they make doesn’t contain any synthetic elements. Everything is natural. The staves are stuck together only with the pressure they exert on each other. The pieces of the barrel head are similar. It’s a job prepared for the 21st century, because it doesn’t pollute”, he tells us. And it generates very little waste. Once the useful life of the barrels is over, they are disassembled, the hoops are recycled, and the wood degrades… it doesn’t pollute… it is organic. 

They polish the wood, they saw the pieces to the size they need, and they use the rest to light a fire and keep it warm. Let’s go back to the topic of waste: they reuse both the hoops and the wood scraps. These are the only fuels they use during the process, and they achieve a completely natural warmth. The wood is heated in order to shape it, little by little, with patience, because if it is done too quickly it could break. The wood must be moisturized while it heats up… and we make it flexible. During this process, the toasting penetrates the wood and caramelises the tannins, making them sweeter, finer. 

They can also repair and prepare barrels to be used again, reducing the wood almost 0.5 cm to completely clean it of the wines that were previously aged in it. Once cleaned, they can be retoasted according to the customer’s preference and used again.

Once the heads are added to the barrels, a gluten-free flour-based silicone is used. The manufacturing hoops are changed to the definitive ones. The barrels are polished again so that they are clean and fine. They are checked to ensure there aren’t any leaks, and then with a laser they are stamped with the name of the winery, the type of wood, the year, and the toasting.

As Jaume rightly says, wood is a living thing which helps to make a better product.

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