Planning for the move to Nuits-Saint-Georges

On a cold day such as this one in California, I can’t help but think about Burgundy. The wine. The weather. The food. It just keeps going in and out of my thoughts. With such a big change coming up with the move(s), I’ve tried to pull back my excitement and let some time pass. As with most things, time has decided against this plan.

With just a few weeks until we are back in Burgundy, moving the wine (Full wine barrels!) to Nuits-Saint-Georges I have been focusing on a technical issue. Put simply, my full barrels of wine need to be placed below the house in the vaulted cave. The punchline? The only access to the cave is going down 10 stairs. This may seem like such a small detail, however, the prospect of dropping a full barrel of wine gives me the instant hollowing sensation in my stomach.

Traditionally, wine barrels were able to be moved down stairs using a rope and hook system which was anchored by two huge holes bored into the top of the stairs in the entry of a cave. There used to be a name for people that provided this service. It seems clear that others have figured out that no matter who is manning the rope system, its a potentially financially painful situation. Keeping this in mind, I’ve decided to take a different approach.

I will place an empty barrel in the cave and siphon (using gravity)a full barrel at the top of the stairs, in the cave entrance. Moving an empty barrel down to replace the now full barrel in the cave as the next to be filled. This seems to be the most practical way of doing this. Next harvest, I will simply fill the barrels in the cave using gravity and bypass the whole barrel siphoning step. I will also be filling the cave with gravel over the existing dirt. Should be fun.

Cave entrance (note holes)

Cave (larger than shown)

Bottle Storage Section of Cave

Cave. A bit rough currently. I will be adding gravel in January.


5 thoughts on “Planning for the move to Nuits-Saint-Georges

  1. Ray,

    Moving those barrels sounds like quite a difficult task. Will the siphoning present any difficulties with regard to introduction of oxygen? And will you be able to get the lees to go through the siphon as well?

    And thanks again for letting us all into the intricacies of the process. It’s a great learning opportunity.

  2. Hi Ray,

    I had the same question as Jamie. Also, I’m pretty sure that with a little lumber and a winch you can get the barrels down safely. It would be some work, but you could build a ramp and a sled (to hold the barrel) and winch it to the bottom. I’m not sure what you’d do with it then, but maybe a cart to move it and a come-along to lift it to the rack or whatever. Easy to say, huh?

  3. Hey guys,
    great questions. This is why I hesitated in deciding to just siphon out. The plan is to pull first the wine via siphon. I will use a decent sized hose to draw in air (one end in the barrel, other in hand) until wine is close to exiting the side I am holding. The vacuum created will continue to draw the wine from the full barrel, filling the empty barrel in the cave. A small amount of lees will get transferred with this, however, the gros lees will be resting at the bottom of the barrel still. I could pull all the lees this way, but I think the lees too dense to put through siphoning. I will need to turn the barrel to dump these lees and them use a funnel to place this small (but precious) amount of lees into the newly filled barrel. I was thinking of using a sort of grommet around the hose, filling the space between the hose and bung hole to cut out air exchange. However, this might defeat the creation of vaacum (not sure on that just yet).

    Now, there was another option (Not for the faint of heart) that would jostle the wine, however no air would enter. The barrels are delivered with a wooden bung hammered in place. Some people have used these bungs to store barrels upside down during elevage without leaking. I could, in theory create a ramp or slide for the barrels. But imagine that amount of weight in wine getting out of your control, rolling down or sliding down the stair ramp/slide.

    Truth be told, I am still thinking of options. But, the siphoning idea could be the best (Read:Safest) route.

    Chris, you wanna come help? 😉

  4. I’d love to. I’d build you a ramp and slide using the ugliest carpentry you’ve ever seen. Alas, we’re under 2 feet of snow here and I can’t even get out of the driveway.

    The problem I see with your siphon method, if there is one, is that of course you don’t have a vacuum in the barrel to be filled. So it’s like you’re decanting a barrel of wine, albeit not quite as bad. Now, if you could fill the new barrel with an inert gas that’s heavier than o2 and get the siphon tube to the bottom of the barrel, then there would be very little o2 contact. In any case, I have no idea if the basic siphon process will a negative affect the wine anyway.

  5. Chris,
    no thanks on the wood work. My carpentry is already ugly. I wouldn’t encourage competition. 🙂 No the inert gas, that is actually an excellent idea! Thank you. I think I will give that a try. This is sure to be an experience….


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