The cellar can be a dark place. Lights are kept low and stacks of barrels cast all sorts of shadows to make things even darker. Basically, without a flashlight, not much can be accomplished in the cellar. So picking out a good light is not an inconsequtial task. It is also an amazing demonstration as to how the smallest design features can greatly affect daily work at a winery.
Asking an American winemaker what flashlight they use is akin to asking an Aussie winemaker what shoes they wear, there seems to be a universal answer. There are probably five or six Mini-Mags lying around any cellar I’ve ever been in. It is sturdy, bright, and the beam can be focused which is a big help when checking the level of a big tank from up top. While an iconic piece of industrial design, there are a few issues that stick in my craw about these lights. First, it takes two hands to turn on and off, two hands that many times you don’t have available. Another problem is the incandescent bulb. It sucks up battery life quickly, and it can break when dropped onto the concrete cellar floor. Lastly, everyone uses these things so they tend to get “borrowed” which leads to mornings wandering around looking for a light.
Luckily, it seems that the company has heard from people like me before, so an answer to most of my problems exists. It uses a push button on/off that can be operated with one hand, and the battery life goes from 5 hours to 200+ hours, which is nice. Bulb also seems to be a lot sturdier to the inevitable drop. Overall I tend to like this light quite a bit more than the classic and it is slowly taking over.
Another option for overall use that has unique advantages is a headlamp. The big advantage here is hands free operation. Great for barrel work like topping in place and what not. Also, there are many times I need to sample a vineyard before sunrise during harvest. The headlamp is the only way to go here. You can even harvest at night using these and tractor work like spraying needs to be done at night, so headlamps are a winemaker must in my opinion. My personal favorites are the basic models from Petzl and the Black Diamond.
The only problem I have had a hard time addressing is the “borrowing” problem. The better and more functional a light is, the greater the odds it ends up somewhere besides where you left it. Thus I was looking for a light that maybe was a bit weird or unique enough that people would avoid using it. The solution appeared recently with the invention of probably the coolest personal light ever made, the Mini Hozuki . Maybe not the most practical light, but it is just plain fun to use and cool to play with. It is bright enough that it lights up the entire interior of a tank, so it does have come practical applications. It can even hang from a barrel rack with the built in magnet. But most of all, people just won’t borrow it because they have no idea what it is. This is just one of those items that you just plain will not be disappointed in.