Beaujolais tuns – seems like a rather strange concept, doesn’t it? But don’t worry, it’s not a misspelling for some kind of rare measurement of weight. A tun spelt with a ‘u’ is the place where most Beaujolais winegrowers store the majority of their cellaring wines for aging.
WHAT EXACTLY IS A TUN?
A tun is a large wooden cask that can store up to 300 hectoliters of wine. Imagine a giant cask or barrel, and you’ll be able to visualize exactly what a tun is!
While most other French wines use different types of barrels or casks with smaller capacities, Beaujolais wines develop much better in tuns. It gives them more space to live and breathe. Because as it matures, wine is actually a living entity! It is constantly evolving and changing until it finds its own harmony!
WHAT DOES AGEING IN TUNS BRING TO BEAUJOLAIS WINES?
Why do winegrowers in the Beaujolais region prefer tuns to barrels and other casks and vats? Simply because the type of container affects the contents. A wine that matures in a wooden barrel or cask tends to become impregnated with the aromas of the wood and develop vanilla, toasted and grilled notes.
Growers in the Beaujolais region want their wines to develop distinct grape and red fruit aromas. Therefore, they prefer to mature their wines in tuns to temper the oaky aromas that might permeate are attenuated in the wine. In fact, as the capacity of a tun is much larger than that of a barrel or cask, the woody flavours become more diluted in the wine. The wood is less concentrated, leaving plenty of room for the real star of the show: the grape.
As the Beaujolais tun is also a wider cask, the wine is better oxygenated. It is this oxygenation that enables the aromas to develop. As you’re probably aware, it is recommended to aerate red wine for at least 20 minutes before serving. But have you ever wondered why? Well, when you uncork a bottle and the air enters, it awakens the wine. All the molecules start moving and this helps the wine develop fully. Try it next time you serve a Beaujolais wine. Taste the wine as soon as you open it and then again 20 minutes later. You’ll notice a lot more flavors the second time!
The same phenomenon occurs in the Beaujolais tuns, enabling wines from a given vineyard to fully express their particular terroir.
IS THE TYPE OF WOOD USED TO MAKE A TUN IMPORTANT?
Even though only an infinitesimal part of the wine comes into contact with the wood of the tun, the particular vintage inside is bound to retain some traces of it. For Beaujolais wines to achieve their intensity, they are usually stored in tuns made from French oak. This wood wasn’t just chosen at random!
Different types of wood from different origins are used for making wine barrels. But Beaujolais winegrowers chose French oak because of its finesse. Unlike American oak, for example, French oak tends not to impregnate the wine so strongly. Its more subtle aroma allows the grape and the terroir on which it was grown to express themselves
Depending on whether growers in the Beaujolais are making red, rosé or white wines and whether they want to create more rounded and complex wines or, conversely, keep the typical characteristics of the terroir, they choose the container that best suits their particular purpose: traditional wooden ones (barrel, half-hogshead, tun), cask or even in the bottle. But tuns are generally preferred here because they give the gamay grape the space to fully develop and help it take on the fruitiness that is typical of Beaujolais wines.