As you know, alcoholic fermentation is a key step in the genesis of a wine. In addition to the quality of grapes or the selection of yeast, the container in which fermentation occurs will play an important role in the development of a wine. Like the musical instruments in an orchestra, the contribution of the vessel in which we make our wine will depend on the materials it is made of, as well as its shape and size. Stainless steel, concrete and wood are most commonly used and each can impart unique benefits to the wine. We often make our choice between these materials based on the color of the wine we are fermenting.
For our rosés, we ferment in concrete vats because they are completely neutral and have a high level of thermal inertia. They therefore provide a lot of temperature stability for our low-temperature fermentation (12 ° to 15 ° C), and ensure a smooth evolution of the fermentation process (yeast are very sensitive to environmental changes at these temperatures).
We also ferment some of our whites in our concrete tanks for the same reason. However we choose to ferment our early-harvest whites in oak barrels in order to sublimate their texture. Indeed, the round shape of a barrel keeps the fermenting juice in movement, creating a natural “batonnage” if you will, that by keeping the lees in suspension adds depth to the wine. The cellular structure of the wood also allows a slow exchange of oxygen and a bit of tannins which add to the future structure of the wine. In order to restrain the aromatic impact of the wood, we use only old barrels of 225 or 500 liters.
For our reds, whose rapid fermentation generates quite a bit of heat, we prefer stainless steel tanks, which allow a better dissipation that heat. We prefer low, wide tanks which are perfect for grape skin extraction, because they provide a larger surface area for contact between the juice and the marc (the remaining solids from the fermenting grapes).
In an upcoming blog entry, we’ll give you a run down on our approach to vessels in which we age our wines…