Today we want to tell you about a very special technique used in the production of some rosé wines.
Below, we tell you all about the practice of bloodletting to obtain a rosé wine.
What is meant by bloodletting?
As we anticipated to you in the introduction, and as it happens with other winery practices (see "fulling"), the wine world often borrows terms from other sectors, introducing them into its vocabulary with a very specific meaning, adapted to the new context. Such is the case with "bloodletting."
This word was introduced in the medical field to refer to the practice of extracting or drawing a certain amount of blood from the human body to combat certain diseases, such as those who have excess iron. Today, this technique is not as widespread as it once was and is used only in specific situations.
It is not the intent of our article to delve into the many facets of medical or therapeutic bloodletting. What we would like to emphasize is the key word "extraction" or "withdrawal" because that is what unites it with wine bloodletting. While in the former case it is blood that is extracted, in the latter it is wine, specifically part of the must.
The technique of wine bloodletting consists precisely in extracting or taking a certain amount of must from a barrel in which red wine is being made. The part of must taken out, before maceration is completed, is vinified in white for the purpose of producing rosé wines.
In other words, the extracted must is no longer put in contact with the marc so that skins and seeds do not transmit other coloring substances to the liquid. This makes it possible to obtain a rosé wine. In contrast, the part of the must that has not been extracted continues maceration with skins and seeds to make red wine.
In short, through this technique, from the same grapes, processed separately, once maceration has begun, two different types of wine are obtained: red and rosé.
The bloodletting method is also known by the French term "saignée," or "bleeding," a clear reference to both the medical practice and the partial transmission of color (metaphorically "blood") to the must, for which the pomace is responsible.
What is the purpose of bloodletting?
Why is the practice of bloodletting used? What are the advantages and benefits of this technique?
This question was partially answered when we pointed out that the salasso makes it possible to obtain two different types of wine from the same grapes, processed differently when maceration has begun.
But getting even more specific, we can identify two possible advantages:
- by extracting part of the must, the amount of tannins and aromatic and coloring substances acting on the remaining must is, proportionally, higher. This allows the producer to obtain a fuller, more structured and full-bodied red wine.
- At the same time, the extracted must, having been subjected to maceration, albeit for a short period, has enough aromatic and coloring substances to be able to obtain a rosé wine with good structure.
In short, if a producer wants to make important red and rosé wines from the same grapes, bloodletting may be the solution to turn to.
When is bloodletting practiced?
At what point in the winemaking process is the bloodletting performed? And for what types of wines?
These two questions have also been partially answered in the previous paragraphs. Now, however, it is time to delve into this question.
Bloodletting is performed after the grapes have been crushed and at the initial stage of maceration. In general, the extraction of the must from the main barrel can take place a few hours after the start of maceration ( 5 or 8 hours), but there is no shortage of cases in which the extraction is delayed by several hours (even up to 25 hours and more). It all depends on the characteristics of the wine that the producer intends to obtain.
Finally, you should know that this technique is adopted, above all, by those wineries engaged in the production of red wines and rosé bubbles, especially rosé Champagne or otherwise rosé classic method labels.
How is bloodletting performed?
The last question we want to answer to provide you with a clear and complete picture of bloodletting concerns how this practice is performed.
The cellar attendant opens a special "tap" that is located at the bottom of the barrel or tank that contains macerating must and marc. The tap, by retaining the marc, allows only the liquid part of the mixture to pass through, which is directed and poured into other containers.
The part of must extracted usually corresponds to 10%-30% of the total must! (So the remaining 90%-70% is for red wine production).
This is a very interesting practice although we always preferred to make a short contact between skin and juice for our rose wines in order to get better structure and complexity.