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After sourcing the wood, further work can begin on making casks, barrels, puncheons and vats. The climatic effects in Castell’Alfero are ideally suited for seasoning, which makes this important process very unique. 


In fact, the harmonious alternating pattern of rain, sun, humidity, wind, snow and fog throughout the year increases the extraction of harsh compounds as the wood is transformed during the seasoning process. We believe the talent of a skilled craftsman combined with intuition is of utmost importance in making a premium product.

These attributes allow the master cooper and before him, the merrandiers to “feel” whether or not the wood will make a good stave. Some key factors determining whether the wood meets our standards are: the type of tree and its origin, how well it's cut and how long it’s seasoned.
  1. Splitting
  2. Quarter sawn cut
  3. Aging the wood
SPLITTING
The first step needed to produce a superb quality French Oak barrel is splitting the wood. It’s important to understand the structure of a tree. The new soft wood located beneath the bark, the sapwood, can’t be considered for our analysis really as wood, and thus must be removed. Sapwood is living wood in the growing tree. All wood in a tree is first formed as sapwood. Its principal functions are to conduct water from the roots to the leaves and to store up and give back according to the season the food prepared in the leaves.

The part immediately inside sapwood is really young wood, and for about 10 to 20 annual growth rings (3 to 6 centimeters) is considered as tender wood, sap conductor. Just the wood located inside these three external parts (bark, sapwood and first young wood) is considered the duramen or heartwood. Heartwood is wood that, as a result of genetically programmed processes, has died and become resistant to decay.

It appears in a cross-section as a discolored circle, following annual rings in shape. Heartwood is usually much darker than still living wood, and forms with age. It is no longer a sap conductor. Consequently this part of the log is by far the best to obtain staves for both barrels, big casks and upright tanks, both for its chemical properties, great to be transferred to the wine, and for the safety to avoid leaks from the wood.

It’s in this stage that the Merrandier selects the best French Oak trees. They must have straight fibers, a diameter of more than 50-centimeters, and no knots. The trunk is sawn to a length, which exceeds that of the future stave, and then divided into four or six parts, each of which is split again to obtain the staves. It’s important not to interrupt the fiber, which must run throughout the entire length of the stave. Splitting is a costly operation. Five cubic meters of excellent wood yields just one cubic meter of raw stave wood.

That’s why staves made from split wood are much more expensive than those made from good quality sawn wood. In contrast, due to its grain density, American Oak can be sawn opposed to split. The sawing cuts fibers in the wood that block movement of liquid. Therefore, the increase in yield of usable staves nearly triples when sawing compared to that of splitting.
Features
QUARTER SAWN CUT
The method used to obtain the staves for big casks totally differs from the splitting method used for barrels, due to the length of the staves.
The quarter sawn stave perfectly replicates the one got for the small barrels with the splitting method, and besides this is the best example of stave possible in terms of aromatic compounds to be transferred to the wine.
Here the radial vases are parallel to the face of the stave, thus avoiding any possibility of twisting in time. Besides there is absolutely no young and tender wood here. On the face of these staves it is common to notice the intersection of the band saw with the wood radial vases, developing a shiny surface. As previously said it comes really clear how only the staves obtained with the quarter and false quarter sawn method can give the optimum result in terms of:
• reliability on lack of movement of the wood in time
• less risk of leaks through the staves
• possibility of getting more balanced wines through less harsh tannins and finer aromatic compounds of the oak.
This method of sawing is a costly operation: 3.5 cubic meters of excellent wood yields just one cubic meter of staves, versus a possible 2 cubic meters of log to get 1 of stave for the back sawn method.

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AGING THE WOOD
The climatic effects in Castell’Alfero are ideally suited for seasoning, which makes this important process very unique. In fact, the harmonious alternating pattern of rain, sun, humidity, wind, snow and fog throughout the year increases the extraction of harsh compounds as the wood is transformed during the seasoning process. No Kiln is utilized to substitute for or artificially expedite the chemical and physical changes that better occur naturally during maturation.
Seasoning must be natural to avoid altering the processes that only cold, air, rain and sun, make possible. These naturally occurring phenomenons produce important changes in the composition of the wood.

In fact, it’s during this process that the tannins are polymerized and the green phenolic components are eliminated. Of course, natural seasoning involves the investment of a considerable amount of capital and patience, but the company desires to keep the family tradition alive.

That’s why we’ve set aside over 5 acres to stage the wood and provide ample time for proper aging. In the end, it’s the quality that counts.
As part of Gamba’s commitment to Total Quality Control, the cooperage has completed certification for Brettanomyces, Tribromoanisole (TBA) and Trichloroanisole (TCA) free products. The independent auditor who conducted the test will continue ongoing random sampling of raw stave wood to comply with certification and insure the highest quality possible.

FABBRICA BOTTI GAMBA S.R.L.

Sede Operativa e Legale: Via Statale, 108/B 14033 Castell’Alfero - Asti - ITALIA
P.I.V.A. 00984550053
TEL. +39(0)141405930 FAX +39(0)141405922
bottigamba@bottigamba.com
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