The Art Of Elevage
Casks And The Taste Of Wine
From Goatskin To Plastic
Maturation: The Pragmatic Art
Sulphur dioxide
The Purpose Of Elevage
Minimal Intervention
Work In The Cellar

The first wine container was probably a skin bag. Until well into this century, cheap Spanish wine often gained an added hint of goat through being kept in borrachas. These were the skins of goats, or pigs, hair and all with the hair on the inside which were lined with pitch to keep them wineproof. The leather bota, or bottle, of Spain, which was smaller and less aromatic, was a more civilized container.

The ancient world developed pottery jars, often of enormous size, for storing and transporting wine. The sea-bed of the Mediterranean regularly gives up cargoes of amyhorae. standard-sized stone jars in which the Greeks, and later the Romans, traded wine, and other commodities such as oil, across the then known world. The Romans began to make casks from wood once they moved north of the Alps though it is possible the Celts or Gauls had found the skill before them. The cask or barrel became the main vessel for moving wine around, as can be seen in surviving reliefs, inscriptions and archaeological survivals from the Roman era in France, Britain and Germany.

The cask is a lighter vessel than a stone jar, is more durable, easier to transport and easier to repair. These virtues made it essential to any trade in wine a long time before it was found that casks helped wine mature.

Wood was the dominant material in cellars for both fermentation vats and storage casks until the late 19th century, when concrete and then glass-lined vats began to be used. Today stainless steel and plastic are alternatives. Glass bottles have taken over as the medium of distribution, as well as bottle-ageing, though some wine is sold in plastic containers and in metallic-plastic "bladders" inside cardboard "casks".

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