February in the cellar25 February 2020
“Vineyard and cellar – 1910” is a series of articles that we present to you throughout the year 2020, month by month. The articles are taken from the 1910 “Wine Trade Directory” and describe the various works necessary for the grapes and wine production at the beginning of the 20th century.
During the month of February, work in the cellar was marked, at that time, by wine racking.
Extract from the Annuaire du commerce des vins from 1910 :
” Racking – In some regions racking begins in February, which continues more actively in March. This work is vitally important to the future of wine. Its purpose is to remove young wines, once stripped by the cold of winter, from the influence of the lees that form at the bottom of the containers. We operate in different ways: either using a tap attached to the lower part of the barrel, pouring its liquid into jugs, or emptying it into another barrel by a funnel placed at the bung hole; either by making use of siphons of which one branch plunges into the barrel to be drawn off and the other, the longer one, pours the liquid into the vessel to be filled; or finally by means of suction and treading pumps, or rotary, through a copper or rubber hose. The high efficiency pumps are powered by motors. Avoid using the pumps too vigorously to avoid disturbing the wine. The first system has the disadvantage of putting the wine in too direct contact with the ambient air, which can introduce germs of diseases or revivify the ferments. The other two methods do not expose liquids to these risks of tampering. In any case it is essential not to neglect any care of cleanliness, such as cleaning and washing of instruments and apparatus, sanitation of barrels, etc. The operation will be stopped as soon as the clarity of the wine becomes slightly cloudy: because no piece of lees should be introduced into the barrels. We will draw as much as possible in dry, crisp weather, with a north wind, because under these conditions the lees are even more dense and also less willing to go back into the liquid.
Storage of the cellar – The full barrels must be arranged on building sites or tins, in oak, from 20 to 25 centimeters of rendering; between each row, we will leave a space of about one meter, to facilitate the rolling of the pieces. The rows arranged along the walls must be spaced about 25 centimeters from them, to allow without difficulty the verification of the condition of the rooms and the free circulation of air. When a wine has just been racked and is intended to be kept in a cellar, the piece will be put on the site, bung aside, so that the wine moistens the bung; this avoids the introduction of air into the room. Remember that wine stores demand strict cleanliness. Wines in vats or in closed vats will be subject to equal surveillance.”
The racking of wines is still a contemporary step for winemakers working their wines in barrels but also in vats. This action makes it possible to separate the clear wine from the fermentation lees depositing at the bottom of the barrels or tanks; but also to standardize the batches of wines and to build the blends of the cuvées. Racking can be done through the bung hole using pipes and a pump, or through the small hole located on the bottom of the barrels.