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The Wine Casks

These should be made of well-seasoned white oak staves, and can, of
course, be of various sizes to meet the wants of the vintner. The best
and most convenient size for cellar use I have found to be about 500
gallons. These are sufficiently large to develop the wine fully, and
yet can be filled quick enough to not interrupt fermentation. Of
course, the vintner must have some of all sizes, even down to the
five-gallon keg; but for keeping wine, a cask of 500 gallons takes less
room comparatively, and the wine will attain a higher degree of
perfection than in smaller casks. The staves to make such a cask should
be about 5 feet long, and 1-1/2 to 2 inches thick, and be the very best
wood to be had. The cask will, when ready, be about as high as it is
long, should be carefully worked and planed inside, to facilitate
washing and have a so-called door on one end, 12 inches wide and 18
inches high, which is fastened by means of an iron bolt and screw, and
a strong bar of wood. This is to facilitate cleaning; when a cask is
empty, the door is taken out, and a man slips into the cask with a
broom and brush, and carefully washes off all remnants of lees, etc.,
which, as the lees of the wine are very slimy and tenacious, cannot be
removed by merely pouring in water and shaking it about. It is also
much more convenient to let these large casks remain in their places,
than to move them about. The casks are bound with strong iron hoops.

To prepare the new casks, and also the vats, etc., for the reception of
the must, they should be either filled with pure water, and allowed to
soak for several days, to draw out the tannin; then emptied, scalded
with hot water, and afterwards steamed with, say two or three gallons
of boiling wine; or they can be made "wine-green," by putting in about
half a bushel of unslaked lime, and pouring in about the same quantity
of hot water. After the lime has fallen apart, add about two quarts of
water to each pound of lime, put in the bung, and turn the cask about;
leaving it lie sometimes on one side, sometimes on the other, so that
the lime will come in contact with every part of the cask. Then pour
out the lime-water; wash once or twice with warm water, and rinse with
a decoction of vine leaves, or with warm wine. Then rinse once more
with cold water, and it will be fully prepared to receive the must.
This is also to be observed with old casks, which have become, by
neglect or otherwise, mouldy, or have a peculiar tang.

Next: Making The Wine

Previous: Fermenting Vats

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