we have been over the past few weeks getting the 2010 Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru “Les Corbeaux” and all of the 2011s bottled, packaged and ready to ship. For 2009 and 2010 we used a mobile bottling machine. This was a decent enough way of doing things. Well, to be honest, it pissed me off having to tell folks to not smoke in my courtyard while the bottling was taking place, a pump had to be used to pull the wines from the cave and then a secondary pump was used on the bottling line. All of these things wore on me. But the thing that finally convinced me to change things was that I felt like I had been intimate with my wines through every step of the process from visiting the vineyards numerous times each month until the wines were ready to be bottled. And there it was, the finish line and all I could do was hand over some Euros to someone else that knew nothing of my wines to wrap everything up. Of course, I still was the one doing labeling, capsuling (up until now placing each capsule on by hand), but I felt removed from it all by not having my hands on the bottling process.
As of last Summer, I have owned a well equipped bottling line. It is small, really small, about the size of two tall refrigerators stuck together, but this thing does an amazing job. I couldn’t tell you how fast it goes, but I can tell you that it cruises at a gentle speed. But hey, we are talking about wine, my wine, and speed isn’t something that figures into my equation of quality. Really, the machine does all types of things that I really won’t ever need. What caught my ear was the fact that this machine works by use of a pump but it can also be used by filling the onboard tank via gravity. Gravity. Sounds like my type of technology.
The question still remained. How in the world do you get the wines up from the cave without using a pump? The simplest answer was to pop open the small bunghole ports on the face of the barrels. These ports are drilled in for this same process of emptying the contents of the barrels. A friend and I grabbed four food safe buckets, cleaned them well, tossed in a bunch of liquid sulfur solution and then cleaned them out again and then placed the buckets beneath the front of the barrels in my cave. Barrel by barrel we have been knocking off the wooden bungs, filling the buckets and then re-closing the bungs before grabbing the next bucket to fill.
From there, we carry the buckets with around 15 liters of wine, one in each hand, up the two sets of stairs leading out of my cave. Using two overturned fruit cases as steps, I carry each bucket up over my head and into the 1600 liter stainless steel tank for the assemblage, or unifying of all of the barrels within one cuvee. Once the contents of the last bucket is placed into the tank, the wine settles for a short time before we begin the next stage of bottling.
We have a patio outside of our kitchen on the second floor (first floor in France). Well, I should say that we have what would be a patio if we used it for doing more than just the occasional BBQ or as a nice place to eat raw oysters on Friday mornings after dropping off Bella at school. But we don’t. While it would be a useful place to enjoy outdoor dining, or simply hanging out I found out that what it is exceptional for is a staging area for bottling by gravity. That is, after you carry up a few 300 liter stainless steel tanks. The valves on the large tank on the ground level are opened, a barrel filling gun is used to train the flow of the wine escaping from the valve as it again fills the black buckets. Two buckets are filled, and carried up the twenty-five odd stairs to the patio outside of my kitchen and gently placed into the tanks. One side of the hose is connected to the valve of the small tank, with the other end snaking down roughy 15 feet to the bottling machine where the flow is strong enough to fill the inside of the bottling machine, arriving at the onboard tank. Place and empty bottle on the conveyor belt, make sure enough corks are in the hopper, turn the Nitrogen on for vacuum and press play. A few seconds later a bottle is out the other side, ready for labeling and capsuling.
I couldn’t ask for anything more.
Thanks for reading
The 2010 Corbeaux and 2011s will be shipped from my door in Burgundy within a week. I can’t wait for you to enjoy them!