Whole-bunch fermentation and carbonic maceration are both associated with the Beaujolais region. And rightly so. The Gamay grape lends itself to the practice and the process is perfect for the production of Beaujolais Nouveau. But this region is certainly not the only region that employs the process. In Spain and France winemakers use the process on particularly tannic and rough varieties like Carignan to soften the characteristics. And there are other regions across the globe that do the same thing. In fact, whole-bunch, or whole-cluster, fermentation seems to be a buzz word right now and people are curious as to what it is and does.
In class the other night we were discussing fermentation and I was asked about whole-bunch fermentation. What is it? Why is it used? What does it do? Although the topic of whole-bunch, or whole cluster, fermentation was a bit out of the realm of this particular class, I briefly described the process. Today I came across these two articles in Decanter magazine that does a great job of letting us know exactly what the process is and what it does. You can read them here and here.
I wanted to share this article by Andrew Jefford from Decanter magazine on the wines of the Languedoc-Roussillon. More specifically, the IGP or Vin de Pays of the region, here called Pays d’Oc.
The Languedoc-Roussillon is one of my favorite wine regions for so many reasons: the breadth of selection of wines; beautiful scenery; the history; the food; the charming towns and villages. I could go on and on. But one aspect I’ve been telling folks about for years is the affordability of the wines. And I’m talking really good wines at ridiculously reasonable prices.
Pays d’Oc fit into the middle of the quality pyramid of French wines. There are rules that need to be followed in order to make the wines. But the winemaker has much more leeway when it comes to available grapes and wine making techniques among other things. In the Languedoc-Roussillon this means that there are over 50 grapes at the winemaker’s disposal and just about anything goes when it comes to turning those grapes into wine. The winemaker can source grapes from anywhere within the region and blend them together to make his wine. With so much being grown here this is beneficial to the grower, the winemaker and finally the consumer because it keeps prices low.
As Andrew points out, the vast majority of the wines are single varietal. And, more importantly, the name of the grape can appear on the label. This is important because the next level up the pyramid (AOC wines) requires the place-name of the wine. So, a Pays d’Oc wine might read ‘Laurent Miquel Syrah’. While an AOC wine from the same producer might read ‘Laurent Miquel St. Chinian’. With the first wine you know what you are getting, Syrah. But what are the grapes in the second wine? You may not know unless you are a student of the region. Pays d’Oc wines are easier to understand for the average consumer, are reasonably priced and are, mostly, well-made. Enjoy the article. (By the way a St. Chinian is a blend of Syrah, Mourvedre, Grenache and other grapes and they are delicious!)