Carbonic maceration in Minervois

Among a number of new additions to the range over the last week, we got our first Minervois in on Friday, directly from the vineyard. The Cuvée Philippe Minervois from Château Agnel (high resolution bottle shot on the way) will occupy a gap we’ve been meaning to fill for some time, as we have had a number of queries from curious customers on this one.

Minervois is an appellation in the north west corner of the Languedoc. It is not too dissimilar to Corbières. Carignan is the predominant grape variety, producing fruity, smooth red wines with low tannins.

One of the most significant things about Minervois (in fact, much of the Carignan from the Languedoc) is their use of a winemaking process known as carbonic maceration, a technique also used in Beaujolais. Standard winemaking involves crushing the grapes to free the juice, however, with carbonic maceration grapes are fermented whole.

Whole barries are bathed in carbon dioxide gas, which permeates through the grape skins and begins to stimulate fermentation at an intracellular level. It has been proved that, compared to conventional winemaking, there are different chemical reactions that directly affect the fruit flavours of the wine. The tart malic acid is reduced, helping to soften and round out the palate, natural sugar content is relatively high as is the alcohol level.

The grapes at the bottom inevitabably get crushed anyway, but overall a brighter coloured, fruiter and less tannic wine is produced, many of which have a distinctive smell of pear drops (!) for some odd reason. Must be those chemical reactions.

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