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

Under various names, including organic winemaking, a doctrine of elevage by minimal intervention has grown up. This posits that as little should be done to wine as possible. It is considered a luxury by many wine-makers, especially those making relatively inexpensive wines on a large scale. They cherish the control that modern techniques give them and rely for survival upon their ability to make decent wine year in, year out.

Reduced intervention can go as far as eschewing pumps, which (believers allege) can "bruise" the wine. The vertical winery, where grapes arrive at the top and work down from crusher-destemmer to vat to cask by gravity, is the dream. This was common in the 19th century, before electricity- and petrol-driven pumps. Some wineries are now run on this principle. There is at present no hard evidence in favour of the no-pumping school, which bases its beliefs more on minimalist philosophy than on science.

Modern winemaking aims at minimum use of any chemical, including sulphur dioxide. Experts point out that, compared with many other foodstuffs, wine undergoes few treatments, and all chemicals used have well-known properties and effects.

It is possible to avoid the use of chemicals entirely, and indeed to restrict the handling of wine to bottling. This requires scrupulous care and cleanliness, with casks topped up frequently to expel air. Tradition calls for racking when the weather is clear, and the moon waning. These conditions often coincide with high atmospheric pressure, which inhibits to a small but useful extent the action of bacteria or yeasts in the wine. The result: more clarity, less sediment from stirred-up lees.

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