Flash-Détente, which translates roughly as “instant relaxation”, involves a combination of heating the grapes to about 185ºF, then sending them into a vacuum chamber where they are cooled. The cells of the grape skins are burst from the inside, allowing for better extraction of anthocyanins and skin tannins. Flash-Détente creates steam that goes into a condenser, and the condensate is loaded with pyrazines and other aromatic compounds, like the aromas associated with rot or mold. (The heating process also sterilizes the grapes.) Bayle acknowledged that some fruit aromas are also found in the condensate. “You smell the green first, and a tiny part of the flavor,” Bayle said of the condensate. Because vapor has been removed, the sugar level is increased in the remaining must. The winemaker can either work with the higher Brix level; add back the condensate; discard the condensate and add water; or a combination.Apparently the color is much darker with the 'flashed' wines. But I ask, is color a problem that needs to be fixed in California Zinfandel? Also, big surprise here, it was noted during sampling the resultant wines, that the 'flashed' wines had lost some of their varietal flavor characteristics. Monterey Wine Company states that this process is best used on "substandard, low quality and problematic grapes". Sounds delicious. This is another perfect example of why there has been a growing interest in natural wines over processed wines.
When I read a recent article about the new flash extraction machinery at Monterey Wine Company, I did a double-take. I thought it had gotten mixed in with all of those April Fools Day blog posts. But no, it seems they are quite serious about utilizing this new wine technology and are proud to spill the beans about it as well. After reading about what this process does to the grapes, I am not so confident that their client wineries will be quite so forthright about using flash extraction. Here is a quote from the article, lest anyone think I am exaggerating: