Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Walla Walla Wine Word for Dummies: Weekly Wine Word Wednesdays

The Weekly Walla Walla Wine Word for Dummies is: Carbonic Maceration

Okay, so this is a total of two words and not one word for dummies.  Good, so you can count. This isn't a math session, this is vocab. 

Carbonic maceration (or whole berry fermentation) is a winemaking technique that is often associated with the French wine region of Beaujolais The goal is to produce a light, but fruity red wine that one can drink immediately (Thanksgiving Beaujolais Nouveau, anyone?). 

Instead of traditional winemaking, which involves crushing the grapes prior to fermenting by yeast, carbonic maceration involves clusters of red grapes that are fermented whole. The process starts with whole clusters placed in a closed fermentation bin or tank under a carbon dioxide (CO2) atmosphere. 

In this process, alcohol is produced inside of the berrry. Yeast takes the sugar inside of  the grapes turning it into carbon dioxide. While the grapes are bubbling away, it's creating alcohol and an intense fruity aroma. 

However, due to the weight of the clusters it will cause some of the berries to break, leaving  juice at the bottom of the fermentation bin or tank to undergo conventional fermentation. The final result is wine that is fruity with very low tannins. It is ready to drink quickly but lacks the structure for any long-term aging.

A great example of a local carbonic macerated wine is from College Cellars - "Beaujo-Lem Nouveau" - 2011. This is the enology students response to Beaujolais Nouveau - - but produced with Lemberger grapes. (see Walla Walla Wine For Dummies - Lemberger ) These grapes were partially carbonically macerated to enhance their cherry, strawberry, and raspberry flavors. On the palate, the Beaujo-Lem Nouveau tannins are silky smooth and gentle. It is definitely a wine to be chilled and enjoyed during a summer BBQ.

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