Alsace Vinification

  1. Describe White Wine Vinification
    • Grapes are harvested and pressed
    • Grapes are de-stemmed before being crushed except for Crémant, VT, SGN
    • SO2 is added to prevent spoilage, browning, and oxidation; it also breaks down sticky pectin so matter drops out of solution more quickly
    • Must is chilled and settled for 12-24 hours (débourbage)
    • Acid or sugar (but not both) adjustments are made before fermentation
    • Ferment the must at 60-68° F (15.4-19.8° C) in vats
    • Rack the wine and adjust sulfer (to block MLF and prevent spoilage or browing)
    • Clarify the wine using a centrifuge or filter
    • Heat stabilize the wine by fining
    • Cold stablize the wine by chilling to precipitate tartaric acid
    • Bottle the wine
  2. Describe Red Wine Vinification
    • Grapes are sorted, crushed, and de-stemmed
    • Cold soak, grapes are macerated for up to 6 days at 46-53° F (8-12° C) to extract fruit aromas without tannin
    • Fermentation at 77-82° F (24-27.5°) for 1-3 weeks
    • Pigeage (punch down): gentlest form of extraction used for thin-skin varieties (Pinot Noir)
    • Remontage (pump over): juice is pumped from bottom of vat over the cap using a spray nozzle; less labor-intensive than Pigeage, used for thick-skinned varieties (Bordeaux)
    • Délesage (rack and return): most comprehensive level of extraction
    • Wine is pressed: free-run wine (vine de goutte) is run off for aging and the skins are pressed to yield a a deeply-colored, tannic wine (vin de presse) which may be added in at the blending stage
    • Malolactic Fermentation: softens acidity
    • Rack the wine and adjust sulfer
    • Some wines are aged; complex wines may spend time in oak
    • The wine is heat and cold stabilized
    • Bottle the wine
  3. Describe Pink Wine Vinification
    • Rosé wines in Alsace are made via the saignée method
    • Skins, pulp and juice macerates for 8-24 hours at 59-68° F (16-20° C)
    • Some juice is bled from the tank and fermented into rosé wine
    • The remaining juice produces a concentrated red wine
  4. Describe Sparkling (Crémant) Wine Vinification
    • Méthod traditionnelle grapes are picked by hand, fermented into still wine, and blended to create a cuvée
    • This base wine is bottled with yeast and sugar to start a second fermentation
  5. Describe Sweet (Botrytis Cinerea, Vin de Paille) Wine Vinification
    • Vin de Paille wines dry ripe clusters for at least 6 weeks (on a bed of straw or hung from attic rafters)
    • The dehydrated grapes are pressed between the end of December and February
    • Fermentation is slow and does not ferment to dryness, finishing to 14-19% abv.
    • Aged for 3 years in barrel, developing aromas of candied orange, prune, hone, and caramel
  6. Why are grapes not de-stemmed for Crémant?
    No pigment is desired and stems speed the flow of the free run juice through the skins in the press
  7. Who introduced chaptalization?
    Jean-Antoine Chaptal (1756-1832), a French chemist tasked with finding a use for sugar beets. Today both beet sugar and cane sugar are used to boost the alcohol level of wine.
  8. What is the limit on residual sugar for chaptalized wines in Alsace?
    0.6% RS (6 g/L)
  9. Why is temperature-controlled fermentation important?
    It allows for a long, cool fermentation which produces wines with greater aromatics and fruit character
  10. Why does fermentation get stuck?
    • When grapes had rot or chemical residue
    • When temperatures got too hot and killed the yeast
    • Wines made from super-ripe fruit
  11. Define racking
    Moving the wine out of the fermentation vat (off the gross lees), cleaning the vat, then returning the wine to the vat. Several rackings may be required to clarify the wine. Typically a white wine in Alsace will age on the fine lees for 3-12 months.
  12. Why do white wines rarely undergo malolactic fermentation in Alsace?
    • The goal is fruit and freshness
    • Riper grapes have lower malic acid levels
  13. T or F? The storage and maturation of Alsace wines generally takes place in bottle
    True: Wines are bottled just before the following harvest to free up vats
  14. Describe Botrytis Cinerea
    • A fungus that attacks tight-clustered grapes high in sugar content
    • The positive concentration effect is known as noble rot ("pourriture noble") yielding unctuous, honeyed sweet wines
    • The negative effect is gray rot resulting in off-flavors or crop loss
    • Noble Rot requires cool moist mornings followed by warm dry afternoons
  15. Are grapes affected by Botrytis destemmed before pressing?
    No: The stems are needed to help extract juice from dried-out grapes
  16. T or F? Vin de Paille wines are produced in Alsace
    True: Although produced for centuries they are not recognized by AOC law
  17. T or F? Rosé wines from Alsace are light-bodied
    False: Wines made by the saignée method are deep in color, full in body, tannic, with less overt aromatics
  18. T or F? Wines made from de-stemmed grapes often have high acidity
    False: Stems absorb sugars and acids resulting in wines with lower acidity and alcohol. Unripe stems impart bitterness whereas brown (ripe) stems add a spicy component.
  19. T or F? Many producers de-stem to produce light reds
Card Set
Alsace Vinification
Wine Scholar Guild Alsace Master Level Program