We know that the slow demise of many French wine regions was caused a century ago by both the phylloxera and the development of railroad transportation which helped bring the high-yield wines of Languedoc and Algeria to the big cities and to Paris. Here is a photo story about these barrels on wheels which helped quench the thirst of the working masses.
As header photo I chose this one featuring workers of the Paris-Bercy wine hub celebrating on a wine tank car the end of the alcohol prohibition in the United States. This is december 1933 (80 years ago at the end of this year) and this is good news for the people and businesses of the Entrepots de Bercy, this "wine town" thriving on the eastern edge of Paris where most of the wine négoce was conducted. The lifting of the prohibition opened wide the gates to the United States markets, and was a welcome boost for the wine sector in France.
This type of tank car was seemingly still widely used then in the 1930s' to transport wine from the producing region to the French capital. It is basically a huge foudre (a large-capacity barrel) mounted on a railroad-car chassis.
This is the port of Sète (written here in the old orthograph of Cette) and hundreds of barrels are waiting for their ship. If you are aware of the weather and temperature conditions in Sète you might worry about the wine stranded for hours or days under the scorching sun on the dock. I know more than one vintner using none- or very little SO2 who would get sick at the thought of their wines going through this ordeal. Hopefully this would happen mostly in the cold months when the wines begin to be ready, february or march maybe.
until the end of the 19th century the Languedoc shipped its wines and spirits through this port. Then in the first half of the 20th century Sète was the entry port for the huge volumes of Algerian wine. Somewhere in the 20th century huge tanks were built near the port of Sète to pump bulk wine directly from wine tankers commuting between Algeria and France, thus dwarfing the use of barrels.
Data for the importation of wines through Sète :
1939 : casks : 384 000 tons bulk : 5000 tons
1947 : casks : 167 000 tons bulk : 153 000 tons
1958 : casks : 18 000 tons bulk : 507 000 tons
Statistics/share regarding the origin of the imported wines through Sète in 1959 :
Algeria 72 %
Spain 10 %
Greece 1,3 %
Tunisia 12 %
Morocco 1,9 %
miscellaneous 2,8 %
Source for these informations.
This is a bi-foudre (twin foudre) tank car, each foudre having a capacity of about 8000 liters or 80 hectoliters (2113 gallons).
The fine print at the bottom of the picture reads "Our wines are well delivered. Why ? Because they come from the property to our stores in our sophisticated wooded wagons-foudres [tank cars] and are thus transported in the best conditions".
Here you can see how they filled casks directly from the tank car. The picture seems to have been shot in an open landscape, presumably Montereau-Fault-Yonne which is not very far from the Paris region. My guess is that this négoce would have its wine shipped by train to Montereau, from which it would be funneled in smaller casks to the big city by horse cart or barge (Monterau-Fault-Yonne sits exactly where the Yonne river flows into the Seine).
The wagon-foudre was "invented" around 1854, and this is no coincidence, this is when railroad tracks were built intensively across France.
This is taking place in Ille-sur-Tet in the Languedoc, the sought-after source for cheap wine then. The picture seems to have been shot in winter (no leaves on the trees), which is better as this region is terribly hot in summer.
The négociant here is Jules Dabat, commissionaire en vins (wine broker).
Here is a rare video made by the French military during WW1, This video which is named "Le vin de l'Armée" (Army's wine) shows these huge wine trains and barge convoys bound for the battleground and reserve troops. Very interesting.
I asked the ECPAD (the French-military documentation & visual-archives office) for the authorization to embed this video in this story and they just replied that for a website it would cost (take a seat) 800 Euros per minute for a duration of 5 years, making a total cost for this 5-minute video of 4000 Euro (and for 5 years only). The email didn't specify if there was a 20% VAT atop of that... Let's remind that these images were shot at the French-taxpayer expenses, and it seems to me that trying to extort money from them is outrageous, especially in an informative context like this story. It shows also that at the ECPAD they're not very familiar (to say the least) with Internet matters...
You can see on this silent video the filling of the Army's wine-tank trains in Béziers (Languedoc). You can see hand pumps and engine-powered pumps, and also a major railway station with hundreds of wine-tank cars waiting for their turn to hit the railroad toward the battle front. At the end of this video, you can see harvest scenes in the vineyard, plus another one when the grapes are delivered to the winery.
World War 1 killed 1 315 000 french soldiers, or 27 % of the 18-27 age group.
This postcard is an advertising for the transport company "A. Bouley", based in Volnay, Burgundy. The telephone number is quite easy to remember : # 8
The picture was shot at the Maison Robert which seems to be a nécoce dealing with eaux de vie (spirits) in Saint Jean d'Angely near Cognac.
The picture was shot near Salins les Bains in the Jura.
One of the best place near Marseilles to see these cabanons is the hamlet of Goudes.
This picture shows the filling of wine tank cars (remplissage des wagons-reservoirs) in the station of Rivesaltes near Perpignan in the Languedoc. The postcard adds a patriotic note by adding the words patrie du Maréchal Joffre, Marshal Joffre getting a hero status in France during WW1.
I am sorry to finish this story on such awful reduction and mercaptan smells but this diversion jumped at me by itself as I was browsing the web looking for images of wheeled barrels in the early 20th century.
you can read more on this page (in French) about this waste-collecting issue in this coastal region a century ago (or more).