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A Lovely Young Spanish Wine from South River Imports

I suspected from the first sniff of my glass that I would like this wine.  This was re-confirmed on the palate until, after two days, there was nothing left in the bottle.  This is young, effusive Tempranillo which has nice energy right now.  I recommend you grab a few bottles to drink now and over the short-term.  Jenn really enjoyed drinking this bottle.  This wine is available at MacArthur Beverages.

PagoDeLosCapellanes1

2011 Pago de Los Capellanes, Joven Roble, Ribera del Duero – $23
Imported by South River Imports.  This wine is 100% Tempranillo which was aged for five months in medium-toast French oak.  Alcohol 13.5%.  With air the nose revealed sweaty black fruit.  In the mouth were grapey flavors of tart and chewy black and red fruit.  There was good extract and lots of leaner flavors.  A hint of ripeness mixed with structure and flavors of Christmas spices and vanilla in the finish.  This mouth coating wine had some spicy spices in the aftertaste.  *** Now-2019.

PagoDeLosCapellanes2

“I am in great distress for want of it, having none”: John Adam’s Inquiries about Bordeaux Wines Prior to Thomas Jefferson’s Classification of 1787

March 28, 2014 1 comment

In a curious way, my current research which began with Thomas Jefferson and led to James Madison has circled back again to Thomas Jefferson.  In looking at original scanned bills of lading for descriptions of bottle and case marks I eventually ended up reading Thomas Jefferson’s famous Bordeaux Classification of 1787.  This was after I read John Adam’s earlier inquiries into the growths of Bordeaux.  I find the history of wine is rich in subjects worthy of further exploration and the origins of Thomas Jefferson’s classification is one of them.  Be wary of any wine writer or blogger who states they have writer’s block.  With natural curiosity and intrepidness one should accumulate an ever increasing list of subjects to write about.  One should simply be handicapped by a lack of time.

Dept. De La Gironde. Levasseur, Victor. 1856. David Rumsey Map Collection.

Dept. De La Gironde. Levasseur, Victor. 1856. David Rumsey Map Collection.

Almost one decade prior to Thomas Jefferson’s May 1787 tour of Bordeaux, John Adams met the negocient J. C. Champagne at Blaye on April 1, 1778.[1]  He informed John Adams that “of the first Grouths of Wine, in the Province of Guienne, there are four Sorts, Chateau Margeaux, Hautbrion, La Fitte, and Latour.”  Later that day John Adams took tea and went for a walk with John Bondfield the American Commercial Agent at Bordeaux.  Almost two years later in April 1780, John Adams wrote from Paris to John Bondfield that he had “Occasion for a Cask of Bordeaux Wine, of the very best Quality”. [2]  In this letter he enquired as to “a list of the various Sorts of Bordeaux Wines, their Names, Qualities, and Prices”.  It appears that John Adams perhaps forgot his previous conversation and was unaware of Sir Edward Barry’s Observations, historical, critical, and medical, on the wines of the ancients (1775).  In this book Sir Edward Barry considered the “principal growths” to be “the Pontac Wines, Haut Brion, Chatteau Margouze, Lafitte, Latour, &c.”[3]  John Adams’ questions were also proposed to Bordeaux merchant B. de Cabarrus Jeune and William Vernon Jr.  It is possible his enquiries were related to his “Honor to be a Minister Plenipotentiary from the United States of America”.[4]  Perhaps John Adams wanted to celebrate his appointment.

The response from William Vernon Jr. has not been found.  Of the other two, the letter from B. de Cabarrus Jeune was received first on April 8, 1780.[5]  Of the “old wines of Medoc” he listed “Haut Brion, St. Julien, or Chateau Margaux” and that they were drinkable “only after 4,5, or 6 years.  He noted but did not specify that there were “some growths” which were less known but provided “excellent wines.” John Bondfield used terminology in his list which Thomas Jefferson would echo later, the “most esteemed for private Use of the first second and third qualities”.[6]  His list in the letter appears to be broken down by price into four groups, three red and one white.  Thus the most expensive red was “Vin de Segeur ou lafit” which sold at 2000 livres per Ton.  The second most expensive included “Chatteau Magot”, “St. Julien”, and “Cannon” which sold from 800-1200 livres per Ton.  The third most expensive included “Medoc comprehending various qualities” from 400-800 livres per Ton.  The sole grouping of “Vin Blanc” included “de Bersac” and “de La Grave” at 360-400 livres per Ton.

For Sale. [9]

For Sale. September 1, 1785. [9]

These particular Bordeaux wines were available in America and advertisements of this period appear to link the idea of specific names to tiered quality or growths.  Alexander Gillon’s advertisement in Charleston, South Carolina on June 21, 1783, lists “Claret…of the favourite qualities of Haut Brion, de Grave and Julian”.[7]  These wines were shipped by a Bordeaux gentleman whose house shipped “none but wines of the first quality.”  Messrs. Willing, Morris & Swanwick of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania advertised “Of the first Growth” consisting of a few dozen bottles of unnamed 1777 “Bordeaux CLARET”.[8]  Cornelius Ray of New York City linked his advertisement “of the best Bordeaux Claret” to the specific “first growths of Haut-Brion and Latour” on September 1, 1785.[9]  Cornelius Ray does not specify which ship imported his claret but later that month Thompson & Lennox, also of New York, imported claret on the brig Friendship.[10]  They had bottles of “Claret de Segur, Hauthbrion, Margaux, and Medoc” which was “warranted of the first quality.”  By April 13, 1792, one could buy “French claret of the second growth” in Charleston, South Carolina.[11]

The wine related correspondence of Thomas Jefferson is peppered with exchanges involving John Bondfield.  On April 19, 1785, John Bondfield wrote to Thomas Jefferson that he had forwarded “four Cases containing thirty six Bottles each of our first Growth”.[12]  I do not yet know what these four first-growths were but I have enquired with the Library at the Massachusetts Historical Society for scans of the original invoices and bill of lading.  I would normally wait for such correspondence but this is post is a quick exploration of an idea.  Regardless, John Bondfield was maintaining his own three-tiered classification of the growths of Bordeaux and after sharing part of it with John Adams he did so with Thomas Jefferson.

Bordeaux. Chapman and Hall, London. 1832. David Rumsey Map Collection.

Bordeaux. Chapman and Hall, London. 1832. David Rumsey Map Collection.

Two years later Thomas Jefferson famously noted on his tour of Bordeaux during May 24-28, 1787, that there were “4. Vineyards of first quality”.[13]  These included “Chateau Margau”, “La Tour de scur”, “Hautbrion”, and “Chateau de la Fite”.   The order is different in his April 23, 1788, “Memorandum On Wine” where he lists “1 Chateau-Margau”, “2 la Tour de Segur”, “3.Hautbrion”, and “4. De la Fite”.[14]  This order is preserved in his February 20, 1793, “Memorandum to Henry Sheaff”.[15]  Thomas Jefferson famously enjoyed these wines for he began to place orders through John Bondfield such as that of February 22, 1788, where he requested “250. Bottles of his wine de la Fite of 1784”.[16]  This vintage was no longer available and with the 1786 not yet ready, John Bondfield recommended “Vins d’hautbrion” being next in quality.[17]  Chateau Haut-Brion does not appear in John Bondfield’s 1780 list so perhaps his rankings had changed.  Thomas Jefferson clearly documented his classification of the wines of Bordeaux.  I cannot help but wonder whether the inquiries of John Adams or the opinions of John Bondfield were in his thoughts as he walked amongst the “celebrated vineyards”.


[1] “1778 April 1. Wednesday.,” Founders Online, National Archives (http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Adams/01-02-02-0008-0003-0001, ver. 2014-02-12). Source: The Adams Papers, Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, vol. 2, 1771–1781, ed. L. H. Butterfield. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1961, pp. 293–294.  URL: http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Adams/01-02-02-0008-0003-0001
[2] “From John Adams to John Bondfield, 2 April 1780,” Founders Online, National Archives (http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Adams/06-09-02-0075, ver. 2014-02-12). Source: The Adams Papers, Papers of John Adams, vol. 9, March 1780 – July 1780, ed. Gregg L. Lint and Richard Alan Ryerson. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1996, pp. 103–104. URL: http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Adams/06-09-02-0075
[3] Barry, Edward. Observations, historical, critical, and medical, on the wines of the ancients. 1775. URL: http://books.google.com/books?id=yTlKAAAAYAAJ&pg=PR1#v=onepage&q&f=false
[4] “From John Adams to John Bondfield, 2 April 1780,” Founders Online, National Archives (http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Adams/06-09-02-0074, ver. 2014-02-12). Source: The Adams Papers, Papers of John Adams, vol. 9, March 1780 – July 1780, ed. Gregg L. Lint and Richard Alan Ryerson. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1996, pp. 102–103.  URL: http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Adams/06-09-02-0074
[5] “B. de Cabarrus Jeune to John Adams: A Translation, 8 April 1780,” Founders Online, National Archives (http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Adams/06-09-02-0089-0002, ver. 2014-02-12). Source: The Adams Papers, Papers of John Adams, vol. 9, March 1780 – July 1780, ed. Gregg L. Lint and Richard Alan Ryerson. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1996, pp. 117–119.  URL: http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Adams/06-09-02-0089-0002
[6] “To John Adams from John Bondfield, 12 April 1780,” Founders Online, National Archives (http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Adams/06-09-02-0096, ver. 2014-02-12). Source: The Adams Papers, Papers of John Adams, vol. 9, March 1780 – July 1780, ed. Gregg L. Lint and Richard Alan Ryerson. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1996, pp. 127–129. URL: http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Adams/06-09-02-0096
[7] Date: Saturday, June 21, 1783         Paper: South-Carolina Weekly Gazette (Charleston, SC)   Volume: I   Issue: 19   Page: 4
[8] Date: Saturday, September 18, 1784             Paper: Pennsylvania Packet (Philadelphia, PA)   Volume: XIII   Issue: 1754   Page: 3
[9] Date: Thursday, September 1, 1785               Paper: New-York Packet (New York, NY)   Issue: 520   Page: 3
[10] Date: Monday, September 26, 1785             Paper: Charleston Evening Gazette (Charleston, SC)   Volume: I   Issue: 67   Page: 3
[11] Date: Friday, April 13, 1792            Paper: City Gazette (Charleston, SC)   Volume: X   Issue: 1861   Page: 2
[12] “To Thomas Jefferson from John Bondfield, 19 April 1785,” Founders Online, National Archives (http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/01-08-02-0060, ver. 2014-02-12). Source: The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, vol. 8, 25 February–31 October 1785, ed. Julian P. Boyd. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1953, pp. 93–95.  URL: http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/01-08-02-0060
[13] “Notes of a Tour into the Southern Parts of France, &c., 3 March–10 June 1787,” Founders Online, National Archives (http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/01-11-02-0389, ver. 2014-02-12). Source: The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, vol. 11, 1 January–6 August 1787, ed. Julian P. Boyd. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1955, pp. 415–464.  URL: http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/01-11-02-0389
[14] “Memorandum on Wine, [after 23 April 1788],” Founders Online, National Archives (http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/01-27-02-0701, ver. 2014-02-12). Source: The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, vol. 27, 1 September–31 December 1793, ed. John Catanzariti. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1997, pp. 761–763.  URL: http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/01-27-02-0701
[15] “Memorandum to Henry Sheaff, [after 20 February 1793],” Founders Online, National Archives (http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/01-27-02-0799, ver. 2014-02-12). Source: The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, vol. 27, 1 September–31 December 1793, ed. John Catanzariti. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1997, pp. 842–845. URL: http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/01-27-02-0799
[16] “From Thomas Jefferson to John Bondfield, 22 February 1788,” Founders Online, National Archives (http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/01-12-02-0659, ver. 2014-02-12). Source: The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, vol. 12, 7 August 1787 – 31 March 1788, ed. Julian P. Boyd. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1955, p. 616.  URL: http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/01-12-02-0659
[17] “To Thomas Jefferson from John Bondfield, 19 April 1788,” Founders Online, National Archives (http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/01-13-02-0019, ver. 2014-02-12). Source: The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, vol. 13, March–7 October 1788, ed. Julian P. Boyd. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1956, p. 96. URL: http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/01-13-02-0019

A Rosé for the Spring

It is strange to write that we tasted this first rosé of the year from Domaine Sorin while there was snow on the ground.   Technically it was already spring.   My initial impressions were of the wine being more serious and this is born out by this bottle drinking well days later after being left on the kitchen counter with just the cork shoved in.  The feel of the wine actually improved with time and warmth.  So if you still have snow in your yard, grab a bottle, give it a slight chill and decant.  The pastille notes will remind you it really is spring.  This wine is available at MacArthur Beverages.

RoseInSnow

2013 Domaine Sorin, Rosé, Terra Amata, Cotes de Provence – $15
Imported by Roanoke Valley Wine Co.  This wine is a blend of 40% Grenache, 15% Cinsault, 15% Mourvedre, 10% Syrah, 10% Carignan, 5% Rolle, and 5% Orgi which was vinified and aged in vats.  Alcohol 12.5%.  This wine was a very light dried rose color.  The attractive nose revealed floral, pastille aromas.  The crisp and tart start burst into the mouth with some acidity on the tongue tip.  The flavors then lighted up with watery acidity before the long aftertaste of ripe, firm strawberry flavors.  After several days the pastille flavors continued in the mouth where they mix with a pleasing sense of tannins.  *** Now – 2015.

Historic Images of the Moet & Chandon Harvest circa 1899

March 26, 2014 2 comments

An excellent series of articles appears under the series title “Les Vignerons Champenois” in the Revue de Viticulture.[1]  These are known to historians of Champagne, see Kolleen M. Guy When Champagne Became French (2010), for their documentation of all aspects related to Champagne including child workers and vine propagation.  The images presented in this post illustrate and describe the carrying of the harvested grapes from the vineyard, their sorting, and finally their transportation to the winery.  Though the article does not specifically state in which vineyards the photographs were taken it is obvious by the Moet & Chandon labeled baskets.  The description of this aspect of the harvest are based on my own translation.

Fig. 8 - Chantier de Pareuses terminant leurs paniers (riviere de Marne). [1]

Fig. 8 – Chantier de Pareuses terminant leurs paniers (riviere de Marne). [1]

The site of the Pareuses was set up at the end of the vineyard rows where there was a path.  Using ciseaux the green and rotten grapes are sorted and left on the ground with the paniers left to contain only the good clusters.   In the riviere de Marne the women sorted the grapes while standing but in Montagne de Reims there were many more sorting sites.  Here the women sort the grapes at a table presumably because there was a great volume to sort.

Fig. 9. - Chantier de Pareuses a la clayette (Montagne de Reims). [1]

Fig. 9. – Chantier de Pareuses a la clayette (Montagne de Reims). [1]

The paniers used in the Montagne de Reims were smaller than those in the riviere de Marne where grapes were purchased by the kilogram.  They were smaller in the Montagne de Riems because wine was purchased by pièce de cuvée.  Thus the 200 liter paniers represented approximately 60 kilograms of grapes.  The paniers of grapes were carried out of the vineyard by the debardeurs.  A pair of debardeurs used a two meter long padded beam to suspend the paniers .  The work could be dangerous because the narrow paths could be wet, steep, and full of obstacles.  If the terrain was too rugged then pack mules were employed.  They could transport 40 to 50 paniers  per eight hour day.  The paniers were typically carried a distance of  20 to 500 meters.

Fig. 11. - Debardeurs. [1]

Fig. 11. – Debardeurs. [1]

The paniers of sorted grapes were loaded onto a cart.  A man on the cart would typically attach a rope to the basket to pull it up while a man on the ground helped raise the basket up then pushed it onto the floor of the cart.  In years of great abundance, when there were many paniers to load, a rolling conveyor ramp was used.  A fully loaded cart would contain 20 to 25 paniers.  The paniers  were identified by quality and the numbers were accounted for at the winery.  After unloading the cart the empty baskets were returned to the harvest site.  It was not uncommon for work to continue until 10 or 11pm.

Fig. 13. - Voiture charge de paniers gorbes se rendant au pressoir. [1]

Fig. 13. – Voiture charge de paniers gorbes se rendant au pressoir. [1]

Fig. 14. - Controle des paniers et comptabilite faite par les chefs - vignerons pour le paiment des vendangeurs. [1]

Fig. 14. – Controle des paniers et comptabilite faite par les chefs – vignerons pour le paiment des vendangeurs. [1]


[1] “Le Vigneron Champenois” Revue de Viticulture. 1900.  URL: http://books.google.com/books?id=6dwmAQAAIAAJ&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false

A Trio of Cannonau di Sardegna

I am deep in research mode again so just a quick post for today.  I am a big fan of Grenache in general, also known as Cannonau in Sardinia.  The 2011 Pala, i Fiori, Cannonau di Sardegna and 2010 Argiolas, Costera, Cannonau di Sardegna both offer young flavors with the former robust and the later firm.  If you are looking for an inexpensive yet mature wine the grab the 2008 Sella & Mosca, Riserva, Cannonau di Sardegna.  All three represent good wines to drink during the week.  These wines were purchased at MacArthur Beverages.

Sardegna1

2011 Pala, i Fiori, Cannonau di Sardegna – $17
Imported by Banville & Jones Wine Merchants.  This wine is 100% Cannonau sourced from various soils of clay, gravel, and limestone.  It was fermented in stainless steel then aged for eight months in a mixture of stainless steel and concrete tanks.  Alcohol 14%.  There were robust aromas on the nose.  In the mouth the acidity was immediately noticeable on the tongue tip and persisted until the end.  There were lively ripe flavors that became drier towards the long aftertaste.  There was a subtle hint of wood which morphed into some smoke in the aftertaste.  There was also a hint of minerals.  ** Now-2016.

Sardegna2

2010 Argiolas, Costera, Cannonau di Sardegna – $14
Imported by Winebow.  This wine is a blend of 90% Cannonau, 5% Carignano, and 5% Bovale Sardo sourced from soils of pebbly, calcareous clay-loam.  It was fermented in stainless steel then aged in a combination of barriques and cement tanks.  Alcohol 14%.  There were initial flavors of red and blue fruit followed by firmer red and black fruit.  There was some ripeness, a little watering acidity, and a bit of texture in the finish.  The flavors straightened up with air.  Good value.  ** Now-2015.

Sardegna3

2008 Sella & Mosca, Riserva, Cannonau di Sardegna – $13
Imported by Palm Bay International.  This wine is 100% Cannonau sourced from clay and sandy soils.  It was fermented in stainless steel then aged for two years in large Slavonian oak barrels.  Alcohol 14%.  The nose was a touch heady with woodsy, bottle age notes.  With air there was some attractive wood box aromas alone with an attractive deep and sweaty aspect.  The red fruit flavors were still fresh in the mouth making way to wood box notes in the middle and red-black fruit in the finish.  It did become softer in the mouth with a rougher aftertaste.  There was some watering acidity and a little salty aspect. A solid experience.  ** Now-2018.

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Some Tasty Portuguese Reds

Jenn and I recently tasted through four different Portuguese wines that could offer a change to your weekly wine lineup.  The 2011 Monte Velho, Alentejano provides distinct Portuguese flavors at a very attractive price.   I would venture that if you like maturity and wood box flavors to your Bordeaux you will enjoy the 2009 Quinta da Rosa Vinhos, douROSA, Douro.  Not that it tastes like Bordeaux but it is showing its maturity very well right now.   The 2012 Quinta do Crasto, Crasto, Douro is quite effusive with its fruit and should be a general crowd pleaser.  It is a nice follow-on to the previous vintage.   The 2010 Esporao, Reserva, Alentejo was the most backwards of the four.  On the second night the wine revealed it has some good things to come but it really is best left in the cellar.  I was a little concerned by the vanilla note but things should come together with age.  If you are concerned then you cannot go wrong with the Monte Velho and the Quinta do Crasto.  I have this sneaking suspicion that there might be some stunning Douro red wines in the $15-$20 per bottle range. These wines were purchased at MacArthur Beverages.

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2011 Monte Velho, Alentejano – $10
Imported by Aidil Wines & Liquors.  This wine is a blend of 40% Trincadeira, 40% Aragonez, and 20% Castelao.  Alcohol 14%.  This was a grapey ruby color that matched the grapey, black fruit on the nose.  In the mouth there was weight to the purple-black fruit from the start.  There was both a tangy hint and force to the flavors which began as grapey then became riper.  There was also some texture and black minerals.  ** Now-2017.

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2009 Quinta da Rosa Vinhos, douROSA, Douro – $15
Imported by William-Harrison Imports.  This wine is a blend of 35% Touriga Franca, 35% Tinta Roriz.  and 30% Touriga Nacional.  Alcohol 14%.  Tasted over two nights this maintained a slightly pungent nose.  In the mouth were wood box natures, black fruit, and general maturity which was attractive.  The flavors became plummy with some integrated acidity followed by tang near the finish.  The flavors were dry and a little salty.  The very fine and dry tannins left a touch of roughness in the end.  *** Now but will last.

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2012 Quinta do Crasto, Crasto, Douro – $15
Imported by Broadbent Selections.  This wine is a blend of 35% Touriga Nacional, 30% Tinta Roriz, 25% Touriga Franca, and 10% Tinta Barroca.  Alcohol 14%.  The nose was immediately fragrant with grapey and floral aromas.  In the mouth there was red fruit which quickly turned blacker with riper and sweeter fruit (not residual sugar) that had a cinnamon note.  This made way to minerals in the finish and spices in the aftertaste.  There acidity was there and noticeable on the tongue tip.  This youthful wine was still compact and should drink well over the short term.  *** Now-2017.

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2010 Esporao, Reserva, Alentejo – $25
Imported by Aidil Wines & Liquors.  This wine is a blend of Aragonês, Trincadeira, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Alicante Bouschet sourced from 15 year old vines.  It was fermented in stainless steel then aged for 12 months in French and American oak.  Alcohol 14.5%.  This had a subtle nose.  In the mouth were some roast notes with drying tannins that lead to a firm structure mixed with black minerals.  The flavors were a little racy and spicy with a citric nature and cinnamon hint.  With air the good fruit was noticeable but still low-lying.  It became a bit softer with a round, vanilla nature and perhaps some tar in the finish.  Needs age.  **(*) 2016-2022.

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Historic Images of Coopers

I so often get caught up in reading and writing about vineyards and the wine itself that I decided to publish a simple post of historic images.  These feature wine coopers and their tools without whom there would have been no barrels for the wine.  I particularly like the first image that contains both a wine bottle and what appears to be a wicker covered demijohn.

Fig. 11 – Atelier de tonnellerie de M. Estansan, a Villenave-d’Ornon. Tonneliers en tenue de travail. [1]

Fig. 21 – Préparation des douelles au chevalet. [2]

Fig. 22 – Regularization du champ des douelles a la colombe. [2]

Fig. 23 – Montage de la coque. [2]

Fig. 24 – Serrage de la coque. [2]


[1] “L’Outillage de la Tonnellerie” Revue de Viticulture, Volume 28. 1907. URL: http://books.google.com/books?id=BukmAQAAIAAJ&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false
[2] “La Fabrication des Tonneaux a la Main” Revue de Viticulture, Volume 28. 1907. URL: http://books.google.com/books?id=BukmAQAAIAAJ&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false

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