Whole Cluster Fermentation and Carbonic Maceration

     This quarter we decided to bring you three red wines that are examples of whole cluster fermentation and carbonic maceration. What are those you might ask? Here’s the basics.

     WHOLE CLUSTER FERMENTATION involves harvesting the entire grape cluster from the vine and fermenting it along with the stems. This is in contrast to the more commonly used method of removing the individual grape berries from the clusters and discarding the stems before crushing and fermenting. Winemakers can opt to incorporate a few whole clusters alongside destemmed grapes or fully commit to using 100 percent whole clusters. Based on my understanding, the majority of wines using whole-cluster fermentations commonly consist of approximately 20- 40% whole clusters.

     What distinguishes a wine fermented with whole clusters (including stems and seeds) from the more traditional destemmed method? Stems contribute distinct flavors, as well as additional tannins and structure.  The success of this process depends on the ripeness of the stems. It may seem unusual, but when grapes are harvested early, the stems can remain green and flexible, resulting in more vegetal and herbal characteristics. However, if the grapes are left on the vine longer, the stems undergo lignification, turning brown and woody, and the flavors they impart become more mellow and spicy, resembling black tea, floral, or forest floor notes.

According to certain winemakers, the inclusion of stems in the fermentation process can enhance it by supporting the yeast and enabling a slight level of carbonic maceration. It is not difficult to imagine that some bunches at the bottom, with the weight of other grapes on top, could potentially generate spontaneous carbonic maceration.

     So what is CARBONIC MACERATION? In a traditional carbonic maceration, grape clusters are placed in a sealed tank, where the absence of oxygen and the presence of trapped carbon dioxide allows the grapes to ferment within their skins. Once alcohol levels reach approximately 2% abv, the grape skins rupture and release their juice. Carbonic maceration results in minimal tannin extraction but some color, resulting in red wines that are light in hue and low in tannin, with a smooth, fruity character. Examples of wines made in this style include Beaujolais Nouveau, which are best enjoyed when young and sometimes slightly chilled. However, we chose to showcase grape varieties other than Gamay, as more producers are utilizing this technique to create fresh and enjoyable wines. If we could make a general statement about carbonic wines tasting notes, you’ll frequently encounter flavors such as raspberry, strawberry, and bubblegum.

We hope you enjoy!

Carrie Upson- General Manager/Wine Buyer

Ena ‘Eurica” 2021 Primitivo

Region / Country of Origin: , Mariah Vineyard, Mendocino, California

About the winemakers: ENA stands for "Eglantine & Alberto", also for  "Europe & America". “We are from Europe and live in America, we make wine on American terroirs with European personalities. Our winemaking, in a nutshell, is an assertive approach towards nature rather than obstructive. Our decisions are based on improving the expression of the vineyard, rather than pushing wines towards a style. There is no trick, no makeup. With minimal intervention, we ferment with native yeasts and carefully select our barrels to respect the fruits.”

About the Vineyards: Mariah Vineyards is under the Mendocino ridge sub-AVA, one of the most exclusive cool climate AVAs in California. Mariah Vineyards, a magical and magnificent mountaintop island, resides about 5 miles from the pacific coast, 2600 feet above the Pacific Ocean and rests above the fog line. The property is conducted following regenerative and organic methods and is completely dry farmed. 

Winemaking: 40% of the clusters through a true carbonic maceration for 15 days, followed by a fermentation on skin for 5 days. The rest of the harvest fermented traditionally in open top tanks with regular punch down during fermentation. After pressing, the wine underwent malolactic fermentation in French neutral oak barrels for a few more weeks before it was racked and returned for aging for 10 months. With minimal SO2 additions and without any movement until June 2022, we bottled on July 05th 2022. 

Tasting Notes: The nose starts with abundant spices as star anise, cardamon and freshly crushed black and white pepper. It then opens with cool layers of fresh, black bush fruits and graphite.  The traditional maceration brought to the blend structure, savory characters, vibrant freshness, and focus. The carbonic portion added the fruit forward and intense spicy bouquet to the nose.  The palate is opulent and powerful, with a perfect balance of acidity, roundness, and silky structure. The refreshing and uplifting aromas give to EURICA 2021 its exceptional length and personality. 

Winemaker: Eglantine Chauffour and Alberto Bianchi

Price per bottle / Price per case:

$55.99/btl $604.70

Suggested Food Pairing:

Pasta all’Amatriciana


Eggplant parmesan

Lentil stew

Stoplman “Crunchy Roastie” 2022 Syrah

Region / Country of Origin: 

Los Olivos and Foxen Canyon, Santa Barbara, California

About the winemaker:Over 20 years ago, our Founding Partner, Tom Stolpman, discovered what we believe to be one of the greatest viticultural sites on earth. Hidden in the hills of California’s Central Coast, on a rare Limestone outcropping & unobstructed from the Pacific Ocean wind, this unique land is naturally suited to grow Syrah and Roussanne grapes. “We are committed to preserving this natural environment for our vines through conscious farming, dry farming, & sustainable employment. In the winery, we prefer native fermentation & minimal manipulation.”

About the winery: Stoplman’s journey to reduce extraction led them to try whole-grape fermentation (no extraction at all) with the first Carbonic Sangiovese cuvee bottled from the 2013 vintage.  After falling in love with the lighter bodied Carbonic Sangiovese, they chose to experiment with the carbonic fermentation of Syrah.  Because they wouldn’t extract any tannin, they could pick the Syrah earlier, with the grape skin still crunchy.  They borrowed the Cote Rotie (Roasted Slope) trick of co-fermenting a dollop of earlier ripening Viognier for floral aromatics and more weight bonded with the bright mid-palate fruit.

About the Winemaking: 100% whole cluster with native fermentation for 9-10 days. Fermentation occurs in sealed stainless steel tanks which are then drained and pressed into settling tanks to finish primary fermentation.

Tasting Notes:  In the glass, black with glimmering red sparks.  On the nose, a swirling fruit punch vortex with layered olive and black fruit in every twist and turn.  In the mouth, a marriage of pop and depth like your favorite “guilty pleasure” album.   The captivating line of Sangre Citrus Stone energy carries the day with a deeper ripe plum flesh and juiciness within.   This benchmark edition of Crunchy Roastie mounts the podium with both gold and silver – flaunting both freshness and depth in a perfect one-two punch.

Winemaker:  Kyle Knapp

Price per bottle / Price per case: 



Suggested Food Pairing:

Slow cooked leg of lamb

Duck with olives

Veal chop with morel mushrooms

Chocolate cake

Storm Curtis Vineyard Santa Ynez Valley Cabernet Franc

Region / Country of Origin: Santa Ynez Valley, California

About the winemaker: Ernst Storm grew up in South Africa and completed his studies at Elsenburg Agricultural School, which is just outside the town of Stellenbosch in the Western Cape. After completing his final year, Ernst worked as a winemaker in the Stellenbosch region and also spent two harvests in the cooler Walker Bay region in South Africa, while consulting on a few smaller projects with his brother Hannes.

Vineyard Site: Curtis Vineyard is committed to the principles of sustainable, organic, and biodynamic vineyard farming. Their low input viniculture methods ensure that the growing of the premium grapes have minimal impact on the environment and their workers.

About the Winemaking: At Storm Wines we follow one rule - make the wines we like to drink. So it was only natural for us to add a carbonic Cabernet Franc to the line up! 100% Carbonic 14 day ferment Aged is 600 liter barrels 10 months aging on lees No fining or filtration.”

Tasting Notes: Bright cherry fruit and bell pepper dominate the nose with hints of tea leaf and red pepper flakes. The palate is bursting with berry fruit and held together by fine tannins and a firm structure.  

Winemaker: Ernst Storm

Price per bottle / Price per case:  $40.99/btl/442.70  

Suggested Food Pairing:

Chèvre, Boursin or Camambert

Grilled Steak Fajitas

Vegetarian Bean Chili,

Sweet and spicy smoked pork belly burnt ends.

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