Thursday, June 11, 2009

Instructions for an American Wine Cellar, 1866

As the wine-cellar and press-house are generally built together, I will also describe them together. A good cellar should keep about an even temperature in cold and warm weather, and should, therefore, be built sufficiently deep, arched over with stone, well ventilated, and kept dry. Where the ground is hilly, a northern or northwestern slope should be chosen, as it is a great convenience, if the entrance can be made even with the ground. Its size depends, of course, upon the quantity of wine to be stored. I will here give the dimensions of one I am constructing at present, and which is calculated to store from 15,000 to 20,000 gallons of wine. The principal cellar will be 100 feet long, by 18½ feet wide inside, and 12 feet high under the middle of the arch. This will be divided into two compartments; the back one, at the farthest end of the cellar, to be 40 feet, which is destined to keep old wine of former vintages; as it is the deepest below the ground, it will keep the coolest temperature. It is divided from the front compartment by a wall and doors, so that it can be shut off should it become necessary to heat the other, while the must is fermenting. The other compartment will be 60 feet long, and is intended for the new wine, as the temperature will be somewhat higher, and, therefore, better adapted to the fermentation of the must. This will be provided with a stove, so that the air can be warmed, if necessary, during fermentation. This will also be closed by folding doors, 5½ feet wide. There will be about six ventilators, or air-flues, on each side of these two cellars, built in the wall, constructed somewhat like chimneys, commencing at the bottom, whose upper terminus is about two feet above the arch, and closed with a grate and trap-doors, so that they can be closed and opened at will, to admit air and light. Before this principal cellar is an arched entrance, twenty feet long inside, also closed by folding doors, and as wide as the principal cellar. This will be very convenient to store empty casks, and can also be used as a fermenting room in Fall, should it be needed. The arch of the principal cellar will be covered with about six feet of earth; the walls of the cellar to be two feet thick. The press-house will be built above the cellar, over its entire length, and will also be divided into two rooms. The part farthest from the entrance of the cellar, to be 60 feet by 18, will be the press-house proper, with folding doors on both sides, about the middle of the building, and even with the surface ground, so that a wagon can pass in on one side and out on the other. This will contain the grape-mill, wine-presses, apparatus for stemming, and fermenting vats for white or light-colored wine. The other part, 40 feet long, will contain an apparatus for distilling, the casks and vats to store the husks for distilling, and the vats to ferment very dark colored wines on the husks, should it be necessary. It will also be used as a shop, contain a stove, and be floored, so that it will be convenient, in wet and cold weather, to cut cuttings, &c. A large cistern, to be built on one side of the building, so that the necessary water for cleaning casks, &c., will be handy; with a force-pump, will complete the arrangement. I need hardly add here, that the whole cellar should be paved with flags or brick, and well drained, so that it will be perfectly dry.

This cellar is destined to hold two rows of casks, five feet long, on each side. For this purpose layers of strong beams are provided, upon which the casks are laid in such a manner that they are about two feet from the ground, fronting to the middle, and at least a foot or eighteen inches of space allowed between them and the wall, so that a man can conveniently pass and examine them. This will leave five and a-half to six feet of space between the two rows, to draw off the wine, move casks, &c.

This cellar will, at the present rates of work, cost about $6,000. Of course, the cellar, as before remarked, can be built according to the wants of the grape-grower. For merely keeping wine during the first winter, a common house cellar will do; but during the hot days of summer wine will not keep well in it.

From "The Cultivation of The Native Grape, and Manufacture of American Wines", by
George Husmann, 1866.

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