Another Tool To Turn Substandard Grapes Into Wine

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:

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.


One response to “Another Tool To Turn Substandard Grapes Into Wine”

  1. Richard G. Avatar
    Richard G.

    Heh this isn’t new! It was developed by the French in the 40’s and 50’s. Known as flash pasteurisation in those days. It is also widely applied to produce millions of litres of good to high quality German Riesling even today.

    How is heating and cooling some how evil?

    What isn’t mentioned is that this method gets rid of unwanted proteins which if not removed in this way have to be removed using bentonite (a type of clay) which also removes flavour and aroma. And yes organic winemakers use bentonite when making white wine. Either that or drink cloudy and sometimes chunky white wines.

    Whether you like it or not, mouldy grapes are common in many parts of the world including the prestigous region of Burgundy. Mouldy grapes produce a natural enzyme called laccase which unless inactivated in some way results in brown oxidised wines (nature isn’t on our side all of the time). The usual solution is to add heaps and heaps of sulfur dioxide. Yes that nasty preservative which everyone in the organic industry complains about. So flash heating is a natural way of decommisioning laccase. Yes that’s right – no sulfur dioxide is needed if you do this.

    So who is kidding who?

    Richard G.

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