Carbonic Maceration Wines in Spain

Carbonic maceration wines

Carbonic maceration wines are young wines with primary aromas, red wines in which floral aromas and fresh, crisp fruit predominate, sweet wines with a creamy touch, which should be consumed during their first year to enjoy all their aromatic explosiveness. For its production, fermentation is generated within the grape berry itself and the best known regions in which this traditional winemaking system is still maintained are Rioja, with the wine of the year, Toro, as well as the Italian novellos and the famous beaujolais nouveau.

Carbonic maceration is a process that occurs during fermentation and that, instead of destemming the grapes to extract their juices, uses whole bunches of grapes in an airtight tank whose atmosphere has no oxygen, but only carbon dioxide. Thus, the grape berries begin intracellular fermentation inside the tank and once they reach 2% alcohol, the grape skins break down and release their juices. Thanks to the presence of the native yeasts that the grapes already bring with them and from the vineyard, when they come into contact with the sugar in the juices, the alcoholic fermentation that had already started inside the berry continues.
This form of extraction is very subtle, so the wines have a light but vibrant color, a very marked fruity expression, few tannins, and a very pleasant palate.

It is generally used in varieties such as, Pinot Noir, Carignan, Malbec, Syrah, Tempranillo and Mouvèdre. Although in the United States and Chile, this technique has been used to produce juicy Zinfandel, País, Cinsault and even Carmenère.
Thanks to this method, some wines have aromas of banana, chewing gum, raspberries, strawberries or cinnamon. It is not that the grapes have these aromas, but that the carbonic maceration produces chemical compounds with these aromas. And, in addition, it makes wines with low acidity.

As you can imagine, in the past, wines were made in this way. The whole bunch was harvested with the green part and fermented in this way. It was in the 19th century when this technique was well described and documented in the book Vinification by Carbonic Maceration written by the winemakers Michel Flanzy and his son Claude.