Rathfinny Wine Estate

Thinking about wine storage

We are starting to work on the next phase of Rathfinny’s development, and one of the most important projects involves the storage of wine whilst it matures on the yeast lees in the bottle.

Between bottling the wine and disgorging, the bottled wine will be stored in cages. They are literally metallic cages, each approximately one metre long, one metre wide, one metre high. Each cage holds 504 standard bottles, and the cages are stackable, which is rather practical for storage.

Cages

Imagine this: when the vineyard is completely developed, the plan is to produce 1 million bottles a year. That means, we’ll have to store about 2000 cages for the first peak year. Say that our stacks are 5 cages high, it would require 400 stacks that would occupy a floor space of 400m2.. But we need to be able to move these cages, and separate the different types of wine: we’ll have to create alleys to allow for forklift traffic, and leave a bit of space to work around. Maybe an additional 30% space would be useful. This ups the floor space requirement to 520m2. Assuming a square room, it would have to be 23 metres by 23 metres, and 6 or 7 metres high. As we are planning on ageing the wines for about 3 years, we need 3 times this storage space. We are now at 1560m2. As one square room it would have to be 40 metres by 40 metres, at the same 7 metre height. Now, this is the minimal workable space. I’d like a bit more for operational flexibility, maybe rounding up to 1700 or 1800m2. This would be quite a large building: an 1800m2 footprint, to give a sense of scale, is 7 tennis courts. Or, if the cages were not stacked, they would cover an entire rugby pitch (don’t mention Rugby!).

Instead of using cages, we could go the old fashion way. Sur lattes, which means “on (wood) slats”, the bottles are piled with wood slats between rows to stabilise, as shown on this picture:

Sur lattes

We’d have to dig and carve caves in the chalk like producers have in Champagne, such as this one:

Cave

It would be very pretty, no? Unfortunately, I estimate it would have to be over 1.5 kilometres long…

Form versus function: which do you prefer?

Jonathan Médard – Winemaker

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  • Chalk cave cellars would look great and be environmentally friendly and have less impact on the landscape. All you need then is a cheap workforce prepared to spend thousands of hours chipping away at rock by candlelight as in times past in Champagne. So I look forward to seeing the enormous state of the art building in due course!

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