During the month of January, the work in the cellar was marked, at that time, by the maintenance, the filling and the racking of the barrels, by possible bottling and by monitoring the frost.
Here is what can be read in January in the Wine Trade Directory from 1910
Filling and racking – The barrels filling continues in January. When the bung and the cloth wrapped in it stop soaking in the wine, they quickly turn sour. By wetting it will therefore be necessary to change the linen and wipe the drain well in order to remove all traces of acidity. The cloths with Vaseline are very good for preserving the wine from the acetic sting.
Freezing of wine – If the wine freezes in the barrels, it must be racked in order to remove the ice cubes that may have formed. Without this precaution the accident would have an unfortunate influence on the wine. If the mass of the liquid contains only small crystallizations which give it a shady appearance, the wine will be sheltered from the cold and wait until the needles are dissolved; then we will rack and proceed to an appropriate collage. We could still remove the small ice crystals by filtering. Generally, following these operations, the wine will have regained its clarity; the livid hue he had contracted will be gone. Sometimes, however, especially when the wine is weak in constitution, it retains a flat taste. A mix with a full-bodied wine will be the remedy; we could also add 10 to 15 grams of citric acid per hectolitre. Intentional freezing has some good effects in that it allows the wine to be given more strength by removing part of its water. But it should be done with caution.
Defense of wine against cold – When a wine thaws in the barrel where it has suffered from a low temperature, its color, its bouquet and most of its constituent principles are modified in an unfavourable way and the care that we recommend in such circumstances do not always restore its value. So, we must be careful, first of all not to expose the wines to too cold. It should be remembered in this connection that below 4° these liquids begin to freeze. In case of intense frosts, care will be taken to keep cellars and cellars hermetically sealed.
Care of the barrels – The barrels are prepared for the next racking. The new barrels are simply drilled with a tendril hole and stored in the cellar on site. Those of the ground will be placed bung below. These barrels should not be stirred until the day before racking, when the bung hole is drilled and when rinsing and nicking are carried out. For used or return barrels, they must be overflowed, to make sure that they have not contracted in bad taste; visit the circles and check if they are in good condition; burn a piece of sulfur wick with the bung. Then we seal tightly and the barrel is left in place.
Bottling – January is favorable for this operation, do it in clear, dry weather.
Nowadays in January
The topping and racking operations of the barrels are still relevant 110 years later in the cellars. The topping consists of filling the barrel regularly to avoid deviations due to the evaporation of the wine. Racking allows to homogenize batches of wines, make blends and remove any fermentation lees.
On the other hand, frost is less frequent because most cellars are better insulated than in the past and are thermoregulated.
“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.
Picture : “Ouillage” in la Halle aux vins of Paris in 1938 ©DR