“Macération pelliculaire” is a French expression that designates the prefermentation maceration of white grapes, a process also known as “skin contact” in English.

Skin contact in white wine making is generally deliberately avoided to prevent tannin and color extraction. This is accomplished by removing the juice from the skins as early as possible. Tannins inside white wines are frequently viewed as a flaw, mostly because they make the finished wines astringent.

However, some French winemakers, like Denis Dubourdieu, started in the 1980s to voluntarily encourage skin contact for white wine making in order to produce more flavorful dry white Bordeaux wines. After the fermentation was complete, they kept for 4 to 8 hours at around 18°C the juices made from Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon (the two iconic Bordeaux white grapes) in contact with their respective skins, which increased the amount of flavor compounds, tannins, potassium, salts and polysaccharides in the wine. This resulted in wines that displayed more body and a lower acidity.

In general, it is to be noted that both heat and alcohol encourage the extraction of compounds coming from the skin of the grapes. These two elements are produced by the alcoholic fermentation process. The liquid, which becomes more and more alcoholic during fermentation, performs as a solvent facilitating the extraction of organic substances. The “Macération pelliculaire” is a technique that prolongs the contact between the juice and the skin of grapes within a high ABV environment.

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