Barrel tasting was such a hit at our Harvest Wine Tasting Event that it inspired Dimitri Tchelistcheff, our winemaker, to talk about how they did wine sampling from aging barrels in the old days.
He remembered decades ago they literally hammered a shaper pointed brass tubing into the end of the barrels. This turn called a sampler, included a little spigot so they could turn on and off the flow of wine from the barrel. After sampling they would pull out the brass tubing and hammer in a little wood plug to close up the hole.
At this year’s JARVIS Harvest Tasting we did barrel sampling with a simple glass cylinder; the cylinder itself is called a “thief” as if it is being used to “rob” wine. A guest would stick the thief through the bung hole in the top of the barrel and into the wine, allow the wine to rise in the thief and close the top of the thief with their thumb, pull out the semi-filled thief and portion the wine into a tasting glass.
This is quite a simple deal compared to the old method Dimitri remembers where barrels were stacked in pyramids and they couldn’t get at the bung holes in the tops of barrels. As simple as it is now for us, one of our guests did have the bad luck to lose his thief in the barrel. Fortunately there was a spare at hand; and in the spring when we rack that barrel we expect to recover that little thief that got lost!