Définition élevage du vin

After several months of vine cultivation and the harvest period, the transformation of the grapes into wine begins in the cellars. The winemaker then proceeds to different stages of vinification. Let's focus on the aging of the wine , a crucial, but optional, phase which takes place before bottling.

Wine aging: definition

Once arriving in the cellars, the grapes undergo different stages of vinification, which gradually transform them into wine. If the most important phase remains alcoholic fermentation , this stage where the sugar from the grapes is transformed into alcohol by the yeasts, other methods are essential, or almost.

The aging of the wines is optional , and consists of letting the wine rest , so that it undergoes a physico-chemical transformation transforming it from raw wine to drinking wine.

Breeding has many advantages that winegrowers do not neglect:

  • It allows the wine to develop new aromas and flourish;
  • The rest offered by aging allows the wine to be clarified (by fining the wine, stirring, racking, etc.);
  • Aging, depending on the container, allows new tannins to be provided ;
  • It allows the wine to age .

Good to know: the aging of a wine is not to be confused with the aging of wine for keeping , which is done in the wine cellar , after bottling. 1

Aging wine to clarify it

Alcoholic fermentation often generates a lot of residue and suspended impurities. The wine is then unstable and cloudy, and the yeasts have produced a lot of carbon dioxide. Aging is therefore the step which will allow the wine to get rid of these impurities and part of the gas.

All you need to do is let the wine rest, and wait for the sediment suspended in the wine to settle to the bottom of the tank . The wine is then clear and clear, all that remains is to filter it to obtain a wine with a pretty color.

To facilitate this filtration process, the winemaker can use a wine fining method, which consists of adding a protein agent to the wine (egg white, fish glue, etc.). This bonding product will then trap the particles and push them to the bottom.

The racking of the clear wine , separated from the lees, is sometimes not sufficient, and the winegrowers must then carry out several rackings. This explains, among other things, that some wines take longer to make than others.

Aging wine to stabilize it

Wine is a very complex living product, and sometimes, simple racking is not enough to ensure the stability of the wine . Indeed, red wines, white wines and rosé wines are made up of numerous components which can react with each other and lead to the formation of deposits or suspensions which cloud the wine.

The objective of aging is then to force interactions between the different components, so that natural reactions occur while the wine is still in vats, and not after bottling.

This is, again, a process facilitated by the fining of the wines, and therefore the addition of excess proteins.

Good to know: the aging of the wine is always done in completely full vats, to limit as much as possible the contact between the wine and the air, which could accelerate the oxidation of the wine.

Aging of wine: the vat or the barrel

Wine aging can be done in different containers , the main ones being the vat and the barrel. The choice will be important, since each of them will develop the aromatic profile of the wine in a very different way.

Aging in vats

The breeding tank can be made of different materials. We then find the stainless steel tank or the concrete tank . Both are inert containers, which greatly limit exchanges, and thus allow gentle and slow evolution.

Winegrowers then choose aging in vats for different vintages:

  • For wines to drink young and fresh, with interesting primary aromas;
  • For local wines, which express all the power of the terroir from an early age.

The stainless steel or concrete tank is also a wise choice for winegrowers, because it is economical and offers significant ease of cleaning.

Barrel aging

Aging in oak barrels follows a tradition dating back several thousand years. If, initially, this container was recognized for its practicality, particularly during transport, today we recognize its advantages for the evolution of the wine.

Indeed, the wood which makes up the barrel is a living material which promotes exchanges with the wine, and which allows the provision of oxygen conducive to the aeration and maturity of the wine .

Aging in oak barrels is then favored for:

  • Wines suitable for aging, which we want to make more complex;
  • Bringing woody notes and complex aromas to wines.

Aging in oak barrels is a more expensive technique than vats, because the wood deteriorates over time and must be changed regularly. On the other hand, by choosing different species of wood, or barrels of different ages (new barrels or old oak barrels), the winemaker offers himself numerous possibilities to personalize a type of wine and make it exceptional.

Wine aging: witness to the winegrower's know-how

There is no one way to age wine, and this step is not even mandatory. On the other hand, it is a process which allows all the talent of the winemaker to be highlighted . Indeed, depending on the type of aging chosen, the taste of the wine can radically change, going from a small, pleasant wine to an exceptional wine.

Everything then rests in the hands of the winemaker, who must choose the container, the duration of aging before bottling, and the different potential fining agents. All these decisions are made based on the type of wine and its characteristics, and remain crucial choices for the final quality of the wine .

Wine aging is the last stage of winemaking before bottling. If it is not obligatory, it particularly reflects the know-how of the winegrower , and makes it possible to obtain a clear wine of the best qualities.

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