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This week's question is pretty advanced, so we asked Nick Poletto to answer it. Nick is a professional wine educator and currently studying for -- and very close to earning -- the Master of Wine title, the highest certification in the world that a wine student can achieve.
We hear about carbonic maceration with red wines (e.g., Beaujolais).
Why don’t we hear about carbonic maceration with “white” wines that have skin tannins (e.g., Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer)?
— Bob H.
Thank you very much for your thoughtful question.
As you know, carbonic maceration is a process where you take whole clusters of fruit and lay them gently in a tank and allow for intracellular alcoholic fermentation under a veil of inert gas. What does this mean you may be thinking? It means that alcoholic fermentation (AF) happens naturally inside the grape void of oxygen. This happens until the grape skins break or until the winemaker presses or crushes the grapes. The result is a very fruity wine that has also allowed the color of the skins to bleed into the juice, delivering a deep ruby, almost purple hue wine.
If we took this process and used white grapes, the wine would result in an orange colored wine. It would taste very rich and have lots of phenolic, funky flavor. It would likely not retain the brisk, clean fruit that many consumers desire and often lowers acidity. For a grape such as Pinot Grigio, the wine would be quite grayish/pink colored without the vibrant acidity.
To conclude, carbonic maceration is not typically used in white wines because of the resulting funky/earthy flavor, colored hue (pink, gray, orange, etc.) and often drop in acidity. There are wines that experiment with this method and white grapes, they are typically considered ‘natural’ wines and some can be quite delicious. The broad consumer has not embraced this style and examples can be hard to find.
I hope that helps and thank you for your question.
DipWSET, CSW, CSS
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