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 raising, or bringing up, of wine is a relatively modern part of the wine-making process. The Romans knew that a well-stoppered amphora could allow wine to age, but this knowledge was lost with the Dark Ages. The medieval wine merchant, however, viewed youth in wine as a virtue. So did his customers, who found that old wine, kept in half-empty casks, turned inexorably to vinegar. The only skill in evidence was cask-making, which needed a degree of sophistication: casks had to be strong enough to survive the rough and tumble of transport. Wine often went out of condition turned to vinegar, or started to re-ferment and no-one knew the cause. The phases of the moon were invoked a belief more logical than the medieval merchants knew.

The 17th century saw the start of change. The basic processes now in use date from the 17th and 18th centuries. Remarkably, these techniques were discovered by pragmatic cellar masters and merchants, not by scientists. Professor Pascal Ribereau-Gayon, himself one of the leaders of modern oenology, credits these pre-scientific pragmatists with inventing selection, cask-ageing and the control of bacteria. Sulphur dioxide was used to kill bacteria long before anyone knew bacteria existed.

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