Making white wine

Cuvier - château Petit Village  

Making dry white wine

In Bordeaux, all dry white wines are made from white grapes. Unlike red wine, what is sought here is not to extract any color or tannins: therefore, any sort of maceration is avoided.

As for red wines, the winemaker directs every step of the vinification and aging processes, relying primarily on tasting and on his experience.

1. De-stemming, crushing, pressing. In most cases, upon their arrival in the cellar, white grapes are de-stemmed and crushed, then immediately pressed to release the must and discard all skins in order to prevent maceration. The juice is then quickly and lightly sulfited to delay the onset of fermentation and reduce oxidation. In some cases, cold skin maceration (prefermentary maceration) is done as a variation of traditional vinification, so that a maximum amount of primary aromas contained in the skins may be extracted while the berries are inside the vat and at a cold temperature before they are pressed.

2. Settling. The purpose of this operation is to rid the must of suspended particles, or bourbes in French. It is usually done by natural decantation at a low temperature.

At the end of the settling, racking is carried out to separate the clear juice from the deposit that has settled at the bottom of the vat.

3. Alcoholic fermentation. This is carried out on clear must, without any skins or suspended particles, at a lower temperature than for red wine fermentation (from 16 to 18 °C — 60 to 64 °F), for an average duration of twelve to fifteen days. Malolactic fermentation, which is mandatory for red wines, is optional in the case of whites, for it raises the risk of an excess lowering of the wine’s acidity. Actually, its advisability depends on the grape variety and above all on the intended style of wine.

4. Drawing off, sulfiting. Once fermentation is complete, the wine should be separated from its coarser lees by drawing off and sulfiting. Refrigeration or filtration is helpful in removing the finer lees, which are not always eliminated when the wine is aged on lees.

5. Aging. New wines all need to be prepared for blending, bottling and consumption. Aging has the effect of clarifying and stabilizing them, eliminating their youthful failings and giving them a chance to blossom out. Like red wines, white wines may be aged in vats or in oak barrels.

6. Blending. As is also the case for red wines, this operation aims at balancing the grape varieties, terroirs and harvest dates by elaborating one or several cuvées. It is followed by filtration — in most cases —, and then by bottling.

Chai - Château de Myrat  

Making sweet white wines

Moelleux ou liquoreux

Sweet white wines, whether they are moelleux (semi-sweet) or liquoreux (sweet), are made from grapes affected by noble rot, which concentrates juice and flavors.

Unlike dry white wines, which contain less than 4 grams of sugar per liter after fermentation, these wines are characterized by an amount of residual (unfermented) sugar of 4 grams per liter or above, and a high alcohol content, in balance with the high amount of residual sugar. 

For moelleux whites, the amount of residual sugar is between 4 and 45 grams per liter, whereas for liquoreux whites, it is required to be a minimum 45 g per liter. 

Upon their arrival at the winery, the grapes are not de-stemmed but quickly pressed. Pressing is slow and difficult due to the extreme concentration of the juice, which limits the fl ow. After a phase of settling, the must ferments slowly. However, for the sweet wine to reach a good balance of alcohol and unfermented sugar, the fermentation often has to be interrupted before its natural completion. 

The wine is then drawn off, cooled and sulfited.

Then begins the aging phase, significantly longer for these types of wines than for reds or dry whites (usually two years for liquoreux).Le vin est alors soutiré, refroidi et sulfité.

Verre vin blanc