Privileging quality over quantity, Château Turcan, a family winemaking estate founded in 1860 has only a small-scale production. It does, however, have a major museum on winemaking! Over 3,000 objects, some true works of art, illustrate the skills required for growing grapes and winemaking in 1,300m² exhibition space, with an area dedicated to wine presses; you will suddenly feel very, very small. Something to be seen in Ansouis, in the Luberon…
The Château, or rather the vast building with a roof of canal tiles, stretches over a hilltop as if to find better exposure to the sun. It is surrounded by vineyards, cypress and pine trees…
I reach the museum through a modest wine-tasting room. Nothing suggests the grandeur of what follows. I discover a succession of rooms and mezzanines displaying, in turn, everything to do with winegrowing, making wine, barrels, glassware… masterpieces by journeymen, works of art, a reconstructed wine merchant’s laboratory from the 1900s, “Lady’s Leg” bottles, “Onion” bottles from the shipwreck of a Dutch galleon… Unique pieces, both amazing and touching, like a 19th-century cooper’s plane made up of 216 different kinds of wood or a commemorative glass for the coronation of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V in the 16th century. In short, artefacts which have survived the centuries, exceptional witnesses to the past.
I reach the Carré des pressoirs with its wine presses, below the museum, and soon understand why this collection required more than a simple room!
Underneath a vast covered area, fourteen wine-presses make up a true “conservatory” for the preservation of objects that are in danger of disappearing. I really feel tiny at the foot of a huge piece made with centuries-old trees and weighing 17 metric tons, a listed Historic Monument.
All pressing techniques are represented, from the late Middle Ages to the 20th century. I take the time to examine each one. There’s no rush! The extreme precision of the work, the sense of aesthetics and the symbolism of the decoration are amazing.
I learned a lot in this museum about the arts and skills of winemaking! I learned that, at all times, bottles, called “thieves,” were made with punts, the indentation at the bottom, to contain less liquid; some glasses, made with “fern glass”,” changed colour when in contact with poison and, in Ancient times, only women of ill-repute were allowed to drink wine while all others risked the death penalty!
The Middle Ages changed all that – for the best!
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