What the heck is Carbonic Maceration?
It's science y'all!
Let’s talk about Carbonic Maceration, or Carbo as the French say.
If you’re deep in the natural wine world, you’ve probably knowingly or unknowingly had a wine made using Carbonic Maceration. It’s a technique that ferments whole bunches of grapes with CO2 and seals it off to all oxygen, so that the fruit can ferment from the inside out.
Some more science-y stuff happens: the carbon dioxide helps break down sugars and acid in the grapes. This part is key, because it’s what influences carbonic wine’s distinct flavor profiles. Tannins in the grapes also stick to the flesh of the grape, separating themselves from the skins (this is also key! This doesn’t happen in non-carbo wines). Once there is enough alcohol produced in the fruit, they burst open releasing all their delicious juice ready to become a sexy, juicy wine!! The fermentation finishes with the native yeast and then you have your wine!
So how is this different from other wines? Well, for one, you’re left with a lighter, juicier, fruitier wine that’s both low in tannin (remember? They jumped from skins to the flesh) and also lower in acid. You know how sometimes you have a wine that reminds you of watermelon jolly ranchers or red starbursts or even bubblegum? That was probably a carbonic wine! Yum!
Now for some history, cuz I’m a nerd!
This is an ancient technique for the most part, but it can really be linked to winemakers in Beaujolais (France), especially with all that light-medium bodied gamay they got coming out of their ears.
Because this is a science trick, it was first developed by a French Scientist in the 30s (Michel Flanzy. Cool name!) but other dudes like Jules Chaveut helped popularize it in France. Nowadays, it’s used around the world, and not just reserved for Gamay grapes! Now you can find carbonic wines that are other varietals of red, and even white/orange carbo vins. Like THIS CUTIE ORANGE WINE HERE.