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It’s production time at the A.P. John Coopers in Tanunda, SA. Here’s a look inside the cooperage where artisans create oak barrels. For more insight, see our photo series by Camellia Aebischer on page 57 of the November edition.

In the 1840’s, the John family settled in the Barossa Valley. Around a century and a half later, in 1889 Christian Paul John began the Chateau Tanunda Cooperage in the site across the road from where AP John sits currently (now occupied by the winery, Chateau Tanunda).

Arthur Paul John, son of Christian, later continued the trade, changing the cooperage’s name to AP John and still trading at the site of where Chateau Tanunda is currently housed.

In 1925 the cooperage was moved, just across the road, to a larger site, and it’s been there ever since.

Although mechanisation has had a huge effect on the way goods are produced worldwide, AP John still rely heavily on the hard work of people power.

A walk through the cooperage during production season is like stepping on to a movie set. Workers rush around hammering rings, rolling barrels over flames to toast, and in the quieter corner the most experienced two select the exact amount of staves to slot in to a complete cylinder.

The final stage, before barrels are stored to be shipped, is a hand painted ring, indicating French or American oak. Green and red for each, respectively.