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Review: La Tonnellerie


Chateauneuf sur Charente, France

It's all about the barrel!

  • By SilverTraveller Gerryann

    6 reviews

  • Jun 2014
  • Chateauneuf
  • Casual
  • Mediterranean

19 people found this review helpful

I have to be honest with you. I have never taken the slightest interest in barrels. Wine barrels, brandy barrels, beer barrels, it is only the contents that have ever caught my attention, that is until my recent visit to a cognac producer in France. What an introduction I had to this humble vessel that is so vital to the production of the best tasting liquors!

I found myself caressing and sniffing the oak in a way my husband found quite disconcerting, and I was fascinated by the skill and effort of the craftsmen – the coopers,who create the perfect barrel for the "aging" of the brandy.

I received my education on all things barrel related while I was in the dark cellar of Paul Beau Cognac producer, where row upon row of oak caskets were concentrating the flavours, aromas and colours of their contents, some for just a few years, others for many more!

Traditionally the dark cellars where the oldest cognac age are called, not surprisingly in my view, "The Paradise" .

In the town of Chateauneuf – sur – Charente, approximately thirty minutes drive from the town of Cognac, a former coopers business (or Tonnellerie) is situated by the lock on the river. In days past, the barrels of locally produced cognac would be transported down the river to La Rochelle before continuing their journey onwards to other countries.

Today La Tonnellerie is a cosy restaurant, with the lock and river providing the scenic backdrop as you relax on the terrace and wonder about the history and craftsmen this place has known. It is such a peaceful, beautiful spot.

The reason we have landed at La Tonnellerie is because every Sunday and Monday evening in France we have struggled to find anywhere to eat once we have departed the tourist towns. Today is Sunday and La Tonnellerie is open, very welcoming, lovely Mediterranean menu, all served up with lashings of ENGLISH hospitality! (My husband has a knack for hunting out English owned eateries in the most unlikely of places!)

Nina and Geoff Hookins are originally from Devon. On holiday in France they strolled past the closed restaurant, fell in love with it (who wouldn't?) bought it, and the rest is history!

Apart from serving excellent food, Nina (front of house) and Geoff (in the kitchen) make you feel so welcome, you could happily hang around for hours enjoying the sun, good food and wine, and their company. Not that there is much time to chat during service tonight! Nina and Geoff work incredibly hard with the minimum of assistance but Nina tells me she loves it, meeting the customers, their life in Chateauneuf, you can tell! The restaurant exudes a friendly warmth – even if you choose to dine outside!

A little gem, tucked away, popular with both English and French diners and of course the boating community who can moor directly alongside the terrace!

La Tonnellerie is a great find and on my next visit to the region to sniff the cognac barrels I will definitely be paying a return visit!

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This review is solely based on the opinion of a Silver Travel Advisor member and not of Silver Travel Advisor Ltd.

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