Flash Detente or "instant relaxation" is new technology that provides a thermal "flash" of 185 degrees for grapes kept in a compartment adjacent to its thermocooler vacuum tank where the grapes are then gradually reduced in heat to about 80 degrees. Bet you thought this was about some super hero having to do with the SALT Treaties. Actually this is a brilliant step forward in winemaking.
I learned about the thing last week when a wine company executive visiting this store told me about his recent trip to Lodi. There are now two of these things in the country; one in Monterey County, the other in Lodi. Neither has been around longer than two years. Those two units are different versions of the same thing, one from Italy; the other, France, but both are functionally the same, using a process created in France in the early nineties. The things have actually been around for at least fifteen years and sixty of them have been working in every wine producing market around the world...except here! It is expensive, by the way, costing $1 million and potentially $2 million with add-ons and changes needed for existing facilities.
The real beauty of this apparatus lies in its simplicity and versatility. It comes in sizes ranging from five ton crushing capacity per hour to sixty tons. Smaller batches may be more appropriate for marketing to home wine makers as the crush could be sold as must or juice and, by the way, the process isn't limited to just grapes either. As for versatility, once the process is complete, the winemaker may make whatever style of wine he would like, he just now has better fruit with which to work. Here are the advantages:
1. Thermal flashing sterilizes the fruit eliminating methoxepyrines which cause the annoying vegetal quality in wine. It similarly removes botrytis and other molds, bitter seed tannin, and polyphenol oxidase.
2. The process is a steaming which utilizes water from the fruit itself, which is then expelled with all contaminants, reducing the water content of the grapes by 6-7%, increasing the sugars by default and making the wine slightly sweeter as a by-product of the process.
3. The immediate extraction of color in processing results in a wine that is darker and less likely to brown with age.
4. The waste water actually has medicinal qualities perhaps useful in an afterlife separate from the grapes.
5. Flashing shortens the winemaking process, removing a "time bottleneck" when the winemaker would normally be waiting for nature to take its course before moving on to the next step.
6. Flashing increases anthocyanins, tannins, polyphenols, varietal flavor, and aromas.
7. The entire process needs no additives and the unit washes itself after work!
Most industry analysts think flashing's greatest application will be reserved for lower quality fruit which will immediately become palatable. Carignon from the previous blog and all of those cool climate bell peppery Cabernets immediately come to mind. But interestingly enough, parts of Bordeaux are using flashing and Banfi of Italy is also in the game.
Join us this Friday when we taste a great selection from Georgia Crown Distributing under the guidance of their representative, Jon Allen. And get in those Nouveau Beaujolais orders!