This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
The crashed mass, with or without the stems, is next thrown into vats and allowed to ferment. The vats are large casks, generally without bulge, the largest at the bottom, and open at the top. In some of the large houses they are covered with loose boards; in others the boards are jointed and made hermetically close by plastering with cement or clay; in others there is merely a floating mass of stems; and in others there is no covering at all, except the scum of stems, skins, seeds, etc., which rise to the surface.
After the fermentation has ceased and the wine becomes clear, it is drawn off and put away in close casks, which in France are almost uniformly of the size called "barrique," holding about fifty gallons. In Burgundy these are kept above ground and in the light until spring, and then put into cellars, while in the Bordeaux country they remain in the light in storehouses above ground until one or two years old, and then removed to dark rooms on the same level. A careful way of making red wine out of grapes not fully ripened is to allow it to remain in the vats for a sufficiently long time after fermentation to let the greenness held in suspense settle to the bottom.
At "Latour," in the vintage of 1866, they allowed the wine to remain in the vat a whole month, though the fermentation was probably complete in half of the lime. After drawing off the remaining undissolved pomace, it is pressed and made into a wine of inferior quality. It is common in France, and it would be sometimes necessary in some parts of America, to provide means of warming the wine-house up to at least 20 degrees of "Centigrade," or 68 degrees of Fahrenheit, as well as to introduce steam heat into the vats themselves, which is done by means of a tin pipe, entering to the right of the faucet and a little above the bottom of the vat, bending to the bottom and rising again in the form of a letter U, and then passing out at the other side of the faucet, at the same distance from it, the steam entering at one end and the condensed vapor escaping at the other; but heat is only applied in cold seasons and when the grapes are badly ripened.
In France, the fruit of different varieties are commonly mixed together, and generally but little account is taken of "cesaye" (variety) as compared with the quality of soil. Well-informed persons, however, are disposed to complain of the introduction, which has been quite general of recent years, of coarse varieties grown for quantity rather than quality.
There is one variety of vine commonly seen on rich soil and deemed unfit for poor ground, except where grown for brandy, as in Cognac, that may possibly be of value to us. It is called "la folle" (the crazy) "en ragatt" (from enraged). Except in its infancy it needs no stakes, but holds itself erect by the strength of its stalk, which is trained about one foot high, and from which the cane or branches shoot out with great vigor, like those of the osier willow pruned low. Evefy winter all the branches are cut back to two or three eyes, and during the season the ground is cultivated in the usual manner, but further than this it demands no attention. There is no summer pruning nor any tying, winter or summer. It is never hurt by frost, is proof against all disease, and is unfailing in its fruiting, and yields, when in good condition, 1,200 to 1,500 gallons of wine per acre. Its most favorable soil is a sandy loam, and when grown on such, its wine, which is quite strong, is worth 40 cents per gallon. Of that produced about Bordeaux, a good deal is mixed with coarse red wine and made into claret for American consumption. Of itself it will not make red wine.
It is possible that this hardy vine or grape will stand our severe winters, and, with or without winter covering, obtain a footing in American soil. Generally it is a bad policy to introduce a coarse plant of any sort; but we have so vast a spread of land that is too rich for growing delicate wines, no matter what variety of plant is tried, and of late the mildew and rot have been so discouragingly fatal in many parts of our country, it might be well to give the "en ragatt" a trial, and, since we must drink the juice baptized with the names of "St. Julian," " Chateau Margaux," and all the saints of Medoc, we may as well enjoy the satisfaction and the very large profit of raising it ourselves.
Not only do the French mix different kinds of grapes in the vat and on the press, but they freely compound together different kinds of wine in every stage of maturity. This is done of course with great carefulness, and the success of the merchant in his business depending on his skill in concocting what will please the palate. Such combination may be agreeable to the taste of the consumer, and profitable to the merchant, but it may well be doubted if it is as good for the health as that which is simply natural, and made from one variety of grape.
A French vine-grower has introduced the Catawba into his vineyard, and uses its juice to mix in very small proportions with that of native grapes to give flavor. Any considerable addition of the Catawba's musky quality would be more than the French palate, trained to like only that which is negative, could very well bear.
"When American wines were tested by the jury at the Exposition, the French jurors, whose scale was from one to four, with a zero at the foot, generally complimented our Catawba with a zero, and they remarked that the more of the natural flavor the wine possessed, other things being equal, the lower they should estimate it. In America the very contrary is known to be the case. The German jurors, accustomed to wines of high bouquet, held quite different opinions from the French, and were much pleased with the American samples.
In regard to the more delicate wines of Europe which do not bear exportation, an important discovery is said to have been made by the distinguished chemist Pasteur, of the Institute, which is exciting great interest, and promises nothing less than to secure wine against disease and deterioration for an indefinite period, to enable it to be transported with safety any distance, and kept in any sort of storehouse. The best way to make known in America the discoveries of Mr. Pasteur would be to translate and publish his very valuable work, entitled "Etudes Sur le Vin," sold by Victor Masson & Sons, Place de l'Ecole de Medicine, Paris. Meanwhile we will give a brief synopsis of it.
After explaining at length the nature of the different diseases of the wine, acidity, bitterness, etc., tracing them all to vegetable parasites, and detailing his experiments in search of an agent to destroy the parasites, Mr. Pasteur arrives at the conclusion, that they are effectually destroyed by heating the wine up to a point between 50 and 65 degrees of centigrade, which would be between 122 and 149 degrees of Fahrenheit. The heating can be done in a "Bain Marie," that is, by placing the bottle or cask in a vessel filled with water and heating the water, or by hot-air closets or steam-pipes introduced into the casks. The heating should be gradually and carefully* accomplished in order to enable any one to test the value of this invention, so important in its aims.
We extract the following, which gives all the author has to say on the mode h6 has himself followed with wine already in bottle, whether new or old, diseased or sound:
"The bottle being corked, either with the needle or otherwise, by machine or not, and the corks tied on like those of champagne bottles, they are placed in a vessel of water; to handle them easily, they are put into an iron bottle-basket.
The water should rise as high as the ring about the mouth of the bottle. I have never yet completely submerged them, but do not think there would be any inconvenience in doing so, provided there should be no partial cooling during the heating up, which might cause the admission of a little water into the bottle. One of the bottles is filled with water, into the lower part of which the bowl of a thermometer is plunged. When this marks the degree of heat desired, 149 degrees of Fahrenheit for instance, the basket is withdrawn. It will not do to put in another immediately, the too warm water might break the bottles. A portion of the heated water is taken out and replaced with cold, to reduce the temperature to a safe point; or, better still, the bottles of the second basket may be prepared by warming, so as to be put in as soon as the first come out. The expansion of the wine during the heating process tends to force out the cork, but the twine or wire holds it in, and the wine finds a vent between the neck and the cork. During the cooling of the bottles, the volume of the wine having diminished, the corks are hammered in farther, the tying is taken off, and the wine is put in the cellar, or the ground floor, or the second story, in the shade, or in the sun.
There is no fear that any of these different modes of keeping it will render it diseased; they will have no influence except on its mode of maturing, on its colors, etc. It will always be useful to keep a few bottles of the same kind without heating it, so as to compare them at long intervals with that which has been heated. The bottle may be kept in an upright position; no mold will form, but perhaps the wine will lose a little of its fineness under such condition, if the cork gets dry and air is allowed too freely to enter".
Mr. Pasteur affirms that he has exposed casks of wine thus heated, in the open air or terrace, with northern exposure, from April to December, without any injury resulting.
Wine in casks may be heated by introducing a tin pipe through the bung-hole, which shall descend in coils nearly to the bottom and return in a straight line and through the pipe imparting steam. If, after thus being once heated, there is such an exposure to air, as by drawing off and bottling, as to admit a fresh introduction of "parasites," the disease thus introduced may be easily cured by heating a second time.
Mr. Pasteur claims also to have discovered and proved that wine can be advanced in ripening and improved by "aeration" conducted by a slow and gentle manner. This is a bold assertion; but such confidence is felt in the value of suggestions coming from him, that both of his methods, cutting, as they will, a tangle of old theories, will have a fair trial by his countrymen, and that without delay.
Your committee would say, in conclusion, that from what comparison we have been able to make between the better samples of American wines now on exhibition at the "Paris Exposition," with foreign wines of a similar character, as well as from the experience of many European wine-tasters, we have formed a higher estimate of our own ability to produce good wines than we had heretofore, and from our investigations in vine culture we are now more confident than ever that America can and will be a great wine-making country. All that is necessary for us to rival the choicest products of other parts of the world will ere long come with practice and experience. We have already several excellent varieties of the grape born on American soil, and suited to it a soil extensive and varied enough for every range of quantity and quality. Who would discover a patch of ground capable of yielding a "Johannea-berger," a "Tokay," or a "Margaux," need only make diligent and careful search, and, somewhere between the Lakes and the Gulf and the two oceans that circumscribe our vineyard territory, will be sure to find it.