The cellarman’s mission commences when the grapes enter the cellar and ends with bottling. His field of expertise is therefore vinification, working closely with the cellar master and the oenologist. The cellarman is involved in every phase of the winemaking process: pressing, maceration, temperature control, maturationin barrels, etc.
He conducts the orchestra, carefully monitoring how the wine is evolving and adapting the process accordingly. The term cellarman is also used for a professional wine merchant.
The wine trade
A wine’s personality reflects the know-how of several protagonists. It harnesses the expertise of a range of professionals every step of the way - from selecting grapes on the vine, to choosing the bottle, to recommending dishes to go with the wine. From the winegrower who produces the raw material all the way to the wine waiter who guides diners through the wine list, here is a portrait gallery of the professionals who put the notion of team spirit in a bottle.
A wine broker brings wine producers and wine merchants together to facilitate sales. He is a knowledgeable intermediary. Not a buyer himself, he provides buyers with his valuable expertise and offers merchants simplified access to a given winegrowing region. A lot of French wine is grown by small vineyards; they produce a multitude of wines both inside and outside the realm of appellations. By advising producers about the best retail circuits and by monitoring transactions, the broker enables the growers to control how their wines are sold.
The cellar master runs the cellar. He supervises all operations that contribute to producing the wine: receiving the harvested grapes, maturation, aging… He is the master of tasting. He is also responsible for hygiene regulations, for submitting harvest declarations and for stock management. Together with the oenologist, he decides when the wines for which he is responsible are to be launched onto the market.
A wine merchant deals in wines. Midway between the winegrower and the retailer, he assembles wines produced by different growers and sells them under common brand names. The tasks of selecting and blending enable him on the one hand to achieve huge production volumes and on the other to design wines with character that are emblematic of their terroir. This strategy is also conducive to producing brands that remain consistent year after year, corresponding to specific markets - particularly export markets.
People usually imagine that an oenologist simply tastes and assesses the finished wines that are submitted to him or her. This is not the case. An oenologist is involved throughout the entire process, from grape to bottle. S/he first intervenes before the harvest, advising on managing and protecting the vineyard, and remains involved throughout vinification. S/he carries out analytical and organoleptic inspections at each phase of the wine’s development. Depending on the region, and working closely with the cellarmen, s/he may also be asked to recommend blends of specific grape varieties or of grapes from specific plots of land.
The first vine growers started to appear after phylloxera had rampaged through France’s vineyards in the 19th century, sparking a crisis; they repopulated the land with healthy vines. A vine grower today is a winegrower who specialises in grafting and multiplying vines, producing plants of impeccable quality for other winegrowing professionals.
A wine connoisseur who advises clients, usually in a restaurant, but who can also work for a merchant or cooperative. S/he stocks and enhances the cellar and advises consumers about which wines go with which dishes.
Coopers continue a tradition that has existed for several thousand years. Coopers are craftsmen who expertly design and manufacture wooden (usually oak) containers ringed with iron: barrels. They select the wood, age it and shape it to create containers with a lifespan that can reach several decades. The quality of the barrel and its capacity to age the wine or alcohol stored in it depend on the cooper’s know-how.
A winegrower is a passionate farmer and a knowledgeable craftsman all in one, working both in the vineyard a nd in the cellar. He designs his wines – from selecting the grape varieties to bottling. He is in the vineyard all year round, from pruning in winter until the harvest at the end of summer, going on to help mature the wine by supervising the different stages of vinification. He works alongside the oenologist to master each phase of production and decides what type of blend is needed to achieve the desired aromatic result.