Although things get serious when grapes enter the press, the work of the cellar master starts well before the harvest. After studying viticulture and oenology up to various levels, the cellar master works hand in hand with the vineyard manager throughout the spring.
Together, they seek to maximise the quality of the fruit by using a range of canopy management techniques and by setting a precise date for harvesting. Once the decision has been made, the cellar master carefully prepares his work space: the vats must be cleaned and the cellar tidied before the fruit arrives. Poorly maintained wooden barrels, for instance, can give the wine an unpleasant taste called barrel flavour.
The cellar master then supervises the key stages of winemaking: destemming, crushing, vatting, alcoholic fermentation, devatting, pressing, blending, settling, sometimes malolactic fermentation, racking, filtering and sulfiting. Throughout this process, the cellar master conducts tastings in order to prevent faults from emerging and can be assisted by the oenologist, particularly during blending. His/her mission does not end once the wine is ready to be matured. Its evolution still needs to be monitored through tastings and biological analyses, and cellar hygiene needs to be maintained to avoid any contamination.
The cellar master also has to be a good manager and is required to keep a winery ledger specifying harvest dates and volumes, the different blends carried out and the yeasts used for fermentation.
Written by Alexandra Reveillon