Certainly Maceration Is Normal For Boys, Ben. But…

…not during Algebra.  Now, wash your hands and finish your polynomials.

Yesterday I had my wine tasting acumen publically mocked by Ben Fawcett because I dared to suggest that I am a fan of Beaujolais—or rather, because  I like the grapey and unfettered freshness that a process known as ‘carbonic maceration’ brings to the Beaujolais buffet.

Not Ben Fawcett

The exact rebuke was this: ‘Then you have got a not so great palate. It is basically to make a red wine more fruitier but it always, always spoils it and has the opposite result.’

Two ‘alwayses’ in that dis too, Ben, which is about as superfluous as oaking a Jean-Pierre Teissèdre Villages.  See, when something is ‘always’ once, it’s ‘always’ for always.

But that’s an English lesson.  Apparently, you’re less linguistically anal than moi, and would prefer to give wine lessons, which is totally groovy since I am always up for enological enlightenment.

Not Ben Fawcett

So I will quote your coaching drill verbatim, sans persnickety ‘sics’:

“Buy a simple Spanish red for £6 – £7, an Italian and a French. It will prove it. The first to will be pure, from a place and taste good but basic the french will reek of jam and false aromas.”

Okay, Ben, so I tried that and it turns out that my corner store won’t accept British money since it’s in Detroit.  But okay; point taken, if I am reading your point correctly.  Let me expostulate, but first I must (with permission) change the ‘to’ in your third sentence to ‘two’, because a ‘to’ in that spot is as needless as, say, chapitalizing Domaine des Terres Dorées Fleurie.

It appears you hypothesize that if I spend £6.50  (USD equivalent = $10.23) on a wine from Spain or Italy, I will be getting a pure, terroir-true and delicious beverage.  But if I drop the same coinage on a  French wine, I can expect (your words) the reek of jam and false aromas.

Not Ben Fawcett

Well, let’s leave out the obvious: That carbonically macerated wine from Spain is widely available and includes wonderfully diverse selections from Estancia Piedra, Adegas Galegas, Muga and Bodega F. Remírez de Ganuza.  Meanwhile, back in the Boot, luminaries like Angelo Gaja and Marchesi Antinori are the proud pioneers of Vitello Novello, Italy’s version of Beaujolais Nouveau.  Rather than mention that all these CM wines are available at your magic quid-point, let’s instead take a peek at your reek: Jam.

Jam reeks, Ben?  Really?  Toe jam maybe, but ironically, though the unctuous scent of blackberry jam and blueberry preserves is highly prized in certain warm-weather varietals like zinfandel and cabernet sauvignon, it appears only sporadically in wines that have undergone carbonic maceration—which lean toward fresh, ripe-berry flavors rather than those of stewed fruits.

DEFINITELY not Ben Fawcett

But that’s as may be.  What really fascinates me is your concept of ‘false aromas’.  Now, if I was to review a 2009 Christophe Pacalet Moulin à Vent and write that the wine shows ‘…the distinct bouquet of purple, laced with aromatics of Mona Lisa, followed by the smell of sky, serendipity  and Mozart’s Symphony No. 19 in E-flat major,’ you could probably make a case that I’m picking up some false aromas.

Otherwise, Ben, if you can smell something, it’s real, not false.

But What Is Carbonic Maceration Anyway? And Who Is Ben Fawcett?

A couple of good questions; second one first: I have no freaking idea who Ben Fawcett is, just some random Facebook weenie whose wrist-slapping of yours truly inspired thought about the science behind the first question:

Carbonic Maceration

As practiced by the majority of Beaujolais vintners, carbonic maceration involves stacking whole gamay grape clusters in a closed, oxygen-free tank rather than fermenting them following an aerated pre-crush as most other winemakers do.  In the CM process, the weight of the top layer crushes the tier below it, and in time, you are left with three distinct strata: juice on the bottom, pulp in the middle, and on top, whole grapes bathed in the CO2 produced by the fermentation happening underneath.  That’s the carbonic part.  These grapes are naturally spackled with ambient yeast cells, which convert the juice within to ethanol—the skins split without the need for pressing, and that’s the maceration part.

The resulting wine is simple and fruity and generally intended to be consumed young, although most cru Beaujolais producers use the same technique—also called ‘whole berry fermentation’—to make wine that reflects its individual terroir and can, in good years, develop considerably with age.

And I happen to appreciate the unique flavors that CM produces; in small wines like Beaujolais Nouveau, these can range from ripe bananas to Cherry Jolly Ranchers to Bazooka Joe bubblegum; in cru wines, they can range from fresh plum to sweet pomegranate to raspberry to some elusive and ultra-alluring earth notes.

These wines do not suit everybody’s tastes, which is fine.  But to dismiss them because they tend toward the buoyant, the easy-drinking and non-ponderous side of the wine spectrum is a travesty of tipple-ology and deserving of multiple whacks with the snob stick.

Yeah, this means you, Fawcett:  Ben dover

*UPDATE*  Based on his gracious surrender, Ben Fawcett is now officially an ally.  Andy, however, is trying to force the British spelling of practice down my throat, so he is now the enemy.  See how it works?  A lot like ‘1984’.

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12 Responses to Certainly Maceration Is Normal For Boys, Ben. But…

  1. Bne Fawcett says:

    Classy classy rebuke. Cheeks are red but not guilty of complete error. Still a bit right, quite a bit.

  2. I am great fan of Carbonic Maceration. The Joven (young) Rioja Alavesas are usually made with the technique making them fresh, sprightly and fruity – but not jammy.

    Especially as a bottle of Rioja Alavesa counts as your entire five portions a day of fruit and vegetables.

    Oh and linguistic pedants from the other side of the pond (like me) may not realise prior to googling that “persnickety” is US for “pernickety”. I just had to stop and google at that point,

  3. Have you tried Ganimede process wines? http://goo.gl/3CwQ9

  4. Andy says:

    If you criticise others’ grammar or spelling, you always set yourself up for a big fall (it’s ‘chaptalisation’ – or ‘chaptalization’ if you must – and the verb is ‘practised’ not ‘practiced’. Shall I go on?).
    It’s a shame – you don’t need to use this sort of pettiness as you’re quite right. The practice is perfect for making juicy, fruit forward wines from fruit that may not always be of the highest quality. Sorry Ben!
    Be careful though – whole berry is not considered exactly the same as CM, which must be in a O2 free space.

  5. intoxreport says:

    Andy, tell it to Wine Spectator:
    April Inside Wine: Chapitalization
    When augmenting alcohol, it’s a matter of degree
    Daniel Sogg
    Posted: April 11, 2003

    And Wiki:

    Practice (learning method) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    Common types of…|Deliberate…|Behavioral versus…|Deliberate…
    Practice is the act of rehearsing a behavior over and over

    • intoxreport says:

      Andy, can you cite reference on the whole berry/CM difference, every site I can find uses the terms interchangeably. I do agree that ‘whole cluster fermentation’ is a different beast.

  6. Looks like Wine Spectator need(s) a sub-editor.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean-Antoine_Chaptal

    Chaptal was especially a popularizer of science, attempting to apply to industry and agriculture the discoveries of chemistry….. The process of adding sugar to unfermented wine in order to increase the final alcohol level is known as chaptalization after him.

    • intoxreport says:

      We kicked British rump in 1776 so we can spell practice any way we want, and we liberated France in 1944 so we own all French last names and will spell them any freaking way we please. I’m prepared to concede ‘whole grape fermentation’ however.

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