Maceration is mainly relaed to red wine making. The process involves the extraction of the phenolics (tannins and flavour compounds) from the grape skins, seeds and stem bits that remaind after the bunches have been passed throug the destemming device or egrappage in french. Maceration takes place in the vat during fermentation of red wine and is dependant on temperature, the contact between skin solids and liquid, time and the different processes of agitation, and grape variety. Some winemakers allow the maceration process to continue after fermentation has finished to extract the tannins that will allow red wines to age, develop and keep longer.
The process of red wine fementation in a vat naturally pushes the solids to the surface of the liqiud as gas is trapped in the mass as the juice ferments and so creates a cap on top of the juice. This prevents contact to extract the tannins and flavour compounds. There are many methods that are used to keep the skins within the liquid of the juice as it converts into wine.
If the cap is not disturbed then the extraction of the components in the skin will stop. The easiest is just to push the skins down into the fermenting juice called Pigeage in French. There is also the process called remontage where the juice is pumped from the bottom of the vat onto the cap at the top. These methods are used for the finer wines where the winemaker controls the processes so that he can produce the style of wine that he wants to acheive. There are more mechanical methods that involve rotating the vats, mechanical stirrers, and screens that keep the solids within the juice.
Our winemakers in the Loire use these simple methods to produce the desired wine. The winemaker will continue to check and assess the wine as it develops in the vat by taste, smell and looking at the colour. Winemakers are very sociable people and will invite friends and fellow winemakers to taste their wine so that they obtain a wider opinion. We visit the estates regularly over the winter months and into the spring and right through the summer on some wines to track the progress of the wines as they develop. Its interesting as well as in the Loire the cabernet franc grape is the predominent red variety and to see how the different cuvees develop is incredible in diversity of taste and structure.
That’s part of the joy of being involved in making wine and our guests who come on our wine tours in the Loire are bowled over at being able to get up close and personal with our winemakers. You should come along. Check us out at www.loirewinetours.com. Cheers.