During an October 2012 visit to the Languedoc I visited Domaine Blayac, one of the growers with whom Abbots and Delaunay regularly work. They were and had been harvesting carignan for carbonic maceration at the domaine.
Carbonic maceration is nothing new, of course, as winemaker Vincent Charleux explained, it’s “a good vinification for fruit, and to bring volume to the wine.” It’s quite often used on carignan in the south of France.
What was new for me was that he opened a vat so we could taste berries from some bunches that had been harvested the previous day. Just one day after harvest and the intracellular thing was working away. These berries were ever-so-slightly fizzy – the finest, tingly, prickly, gentle pins and needles sensation on the tongue that you can imagine. Presumably this was carbon dioxide being absorbed from the flushed vat. Sparkling berries. The berries had also already softened considerably, to a sort of wrinkly-fingers-in-the-bath stage. And obviously still sweet as; not much alcohol is produced inside the berry.
You think you’re beginning to have a handle on how something works, then the excitement of minute discovery gives you a whole new angle on understanding. I love it.