Carbonic Maceration and Wine

Many winedrinkers don't want to have to wait decades before they are able to open and enjoy a bottle of wine. How can a winemaker take a grape which normally makes a tannic, heavy wine, and instead make a wine that is young, fruity, and ready to drink immediately? This process is known as "Carbonic Maceration", sometimes called "whole grape fermentation". It is most famous for its use on Beaujolais Nouveau, but it is used for many red wine styles. This process is not usually done to white grapes.

During normal Winemaking processes, grapes are crushed and then the mixture is fermented by yeast. The yeast takes the sugar in the grapes plus oxygen and turns it into carbon dioxide, which bubbles away, and alcohol, which of course is what makes the grape juice now wine.

When you instead use carbonic maceration, you don't start by breaking up the grapes. Instead, you are very careful to put the whole grapes into a vat along with a layer of carbon dioxide - so that yeast can't start up easily. Instead, what happens is that the inside of the grape starts to ferment, within the skin. This kind of fermentation creates ethanol as well as various appealing aroma components. After a few weeks, the wine is continued as usual.

The result is a wine that is less tannic, less acidic, and more light and fruity. This creates a wine which is great for immediate drinking, but is incapable of aging for any length of time. Because of its inability to age, this kind of wine is also not a good one for keeping long after it has been opened - be prepared to drink it that day or soon thereafter.

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