Three Cellar Masters and countless barrels (15,000 a year to be precise!): Meet Raymond Fernandez, Cooper at the House of Rémy Martin for 26 years.
What part of France do you come from?
I am from Charente, Touvérac, in the southern part of the Cognac region.
What did you do before becoming a cooper?
I was an apprentice for two years at Maison Pelletant where I was a long sawyer. This means I cut trees by their length to make wood planks with circumference crafted to the wood. I then became a full-time long sawyer.
How did you discover your current profession?
It’s passion and love for wood that my father passed down to me.
What kind of professional training is needed to become a cooper?
It involves two-year training as an apprentice. Courses are offered by the chamber of commerce and the apprenticeship takes place in a company. For me, I started my apprenticeship at Maison Pelletant. Once I had a diploma under my belt, I was hired by the company. At the time I left company, I was No. 1 in my class, and I earned the 2nd prize for the Charente department.
What is your daily routine?
As soon as I arrive, I put on my work clothes, and I take the time to chat with my colleagues before starting the day. My missions are varied, given that I control the quality of the barrels. When I started at Rémy Martin, I repaired barrels. Today, I sort through new barrels and the barrels that go back to winemaking. I do the “étanchage” (sealing leaks in barrels without disassembling the barrels, thanks to small pieces of oak or of natural “jonc,” depending on the repair needed) and I equally work with large-capacity casks. At lunchtime, I like going off-site, and I dine with my co-workers at the UCM (Unité de Conditionnement in Merpins).
What do you do for fun?
When I am not at work, I am the president of a Festivities Committee in my township, an activity which occupies my free time. This involves a lot of organization on my end.
Describe your office.
The cellars are my office, namely Cellar A, which is the central meeting point of the barrels. All the barrels pass through Cellar A before being dispersed into the other cellars to stalk eaux-de-vie.
Which aspects of your role do you enjoy most?
What is stimulating is being precise and rigorous so that barrel sorting goes well. What I enjoy about my role is sorting barrels and sealing leaks. You must be meticulous. But what I love most is nurturing my savoir-faire.
The most surprising aspect about your role?
What is surprising about this role is understanding the subtleness in the construction of a barrel, which is something the naked eye sometimes cannot see at all. The big advantages are equally surprising, to have so many barrels at once. You must keep in mind that I handle about 15,000 barrels a year.
What characteristics are needed to become a cooper?
To successfully and efficiently repair barrels, you must know the cooperages that deliver to us well, as each one has their techniques and proper methods of fabrication.
Why did you choose to work with Rémy Martin?
As previously mentioned, before joining the House of Rémy Martin, I was a sawyer. By joining the House, I was granted the opportunity to discover another job involving wood. At the time, Rémy Martin was looking for a cooper.
What’s next for you?
Staying here for a long time to continue to sharpen my skills.