Quality Wine and Forest Conservation

The Forest Sciences Center of Catalonia (CTFC) is carrying out a pilot study to investigate the potential of producing wine barrels with wood from Quercus pyrenaica (Pyrenean oak) from the Serra de Prades region of Catalonia, Spain.

An experimental barrel was built in 2013 and was the first recorded barrel built from Quercus pyrenaica in Catalonia. In May 2014 the barrel was filled with a local variety of young wine called "trepat" and over the next few months specialist winemakers will evaluate its organoleptic evolution. The objective is to obtain high quality and unique wines that are closely linked to the territory and the sustainable management of Quercus pyrenaica forests.

Quercus pyrenaica is endemic to South West Europe and North Africa. In Catalonia it is only found in an isolated population of about 500 ha in the Serra de Prades. The traditional use as firewood threatens the conservation of this unique forest. Several previous studies identified the optimum oenological quality of Quercus pyrenaica wood but the technological and processing requirements for use as barrels were not known.

The initial results of this study indicate that the Quercus pyrenaica wood possesses highly suitable characteristics for the manufacture of barrels. Using oak wood for cooperage instead of firewood can generate much higher prices and in addition, one of the most interesting points from the conservation perspective is that the production of wood for cooperage requires large healthy trees. The production of wooden staves may be an opportunity for the management and conservation of the Quercus pyrenaica forests in Catalonia.

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