In French, cellar master and wine merchant are the same word but not to be confused! Despite the homonym, in this case the term refers to a worker who is pivotal to the smooth operation of the winery.
Whether under the orders of a higher-ranked cellar master or combining both jobs on the smaller estates, being rigorous and meticulous are two prerequisites. Cellar workers have a vocational diploma in farming and must have enough strength to be able to move barrels weighing several hundred kilograms around the winery. A few weeks before the harvest begins, they start preparing the winery, working thoroughly from barrels to fermentation vats. They clean the cellars to prevent bacteria from spreading and potentially contaminating the wine and giving it an unpleasant taste. They are also responsible for the maintenance of tools located in the cellar, such as pumps and presses.
When the grapes arrive at the winery, cellar workers place them in the vats and supervise maceration followed by each step of the winemaking process. In particular, they ensure that all the sugar is transformed into alcohol during fermentation. Their most physical missions are not over, though: they are the ones who rack off the fermented wines, before filtering them and putting them into barrels or bottles. The cellar master and the oenologist can invite them to take part in blending, giving them an opportunity to hone their palate and develop a good grounding in tasting. Once the ageing process has begun, the cellar worker is regularly required to transport and arrange the barrels in the cellar, all in the damp atmosphere befitting of a winery.
By Alexandra Reveillon