Barrel makers (or coopers) from the Domaines’s cooperage craft the barrels which hold the wine over many months of ageing. Great care in manufacturing the barrels plays a major role in the wine’s ageing. Due to the technical aspects involved in manufacturing the barrels, the coopers have a major responsibility, and are passionate about their work. Selecting lumber and sorting it during crafting, preparation of the staves, and precision assembly are the keys to our barrels’ quality.
The Domaine’s cooperage is located at Pauillac. By Médoc tradition, there has always been a cooperage at Lafite. The current team is composed of five barrel makers who work year round to produce 2,000 barrels, used in the group’s various properties.
Oak is selected from the great Allier and Nivernais forests, then left to dry in the open air for two years at Lafite, before being crafted. This independence allows us to control the geographical origin of the wood, the quality of its drying, as well as toasting during assembly, which can confer a specific taste to the wine, depending on its quality.
The winegrowers become familiar with their plot in the vineyard through years of working with the vines. They carry out pruning in the winter in order to bring out the best of the vines.
In the spring, de-budding must be performed carefully in order to leave enough wood for the vines to be renewed, which ensures the vineyards’ sustainability.
The winegrower’s job is very closely tied to the grape vines, particularly to the vine stock. They develop a bond with the vines, often a lifelong relationship which only uprooting of the vines for replanting or the winegrower’s retirement can break.
Changing a winegrower’s plots means losing years of experience. A master winegrower is the team leader, responsible for supervising, planning, and organising the manual work in the vineyard. They are in charge of the physiological upkeep of the vines, and of planning projects for that purpose.
Assistant vineyard worker
The assistant vineyard workersoversee the maintenance of the vines throughout the growing season in order to ensure the right positioning of the branches for the next pruning.
Their winter work essentially involves untying, rolling vine shoots, and protecting pruning scars. In the spring, they are responsible for trellising and de-suckering.
Like the winegrower, they participate in group efforts such as harvests in the autumn, and assist in the cellars when needed.
The machinery operator carries out mechanical work in the vineyard. Over the year, they perform work on the soil (ploughing and shaping the earth around the base of the vines), protecting crops (sulphating, spraying), and fertilizing. The dates of these activities depend largely on the weather. The machinery operator is also responsible for preparing the soil before new plantings.
They then participate in the collective work in autumn. A machine operator manager, the operator’s team leader, supervises planning and operations of mechanical work performed in the vineyard.
Work in the cellars
The Cellar Master
The cellar master is an artist who gives form to new wines. After supervising the harvest and fermenting, they prepare tastings of blends of the various grapes from different terroirs in order to obtain the finest possible balance, which embodies the image of the property.
Supervising the wines’ ageing is then their main concern in order to ensure the success of the vintage. They oversee the cellar staff’s work, taking note of the slightest variations in the gestation of the new wine. Later, they supervise the various operations involved in bottling.
The cellar worker
The cellar worker literally “lives in the shadows” due to the fact that they are always working in dark cellars. They handle the wine from the arrival of the grapes through to bottling.
In the autumn, they perform various harvest reception operations, macerating, pressing, placing in tanks, blending and cleaning. Once placed in barrels, they will perform the topping up and the racking of barrels every 3 months, along with the handling of the barrels, and lastly the bottling. This cycle can vary depending on the wine, but it generally lasts 3 years for fine wines.
The cellar worker is the steward of the wine during its long ageing period. They carry out the work that enables the wine to develop through its contact with the wood, and to undergo natural clarification.