Kerrville Hills Winery is ushering in a major step forward in wine production innovation with flash détente thermovinification which will significantly improve the wine quality. The winery and winery incubator has purchased a Mobile Flash Détente OEnoSm’Art system from Pellenc America, Inc. for use beginning in the 2021 harvest.
Flash détente, which roughly translates into “immediate relaxation,” is a thermovinification process that works by quickly heating grapes to near boiling, then immediately cools them in a vacuum. The process obliterates the cell wall, releasing numerous phenolic compounds which increase the sugar content, enhances the color, and gives it a richer aroma. The vaporized water and volatilized compounds are captured and chilled in a condenser column, allowing them to be discarded or to be blended back into the grape must, depending on winemaking goals.
“Flash détente is the ultimate extraction tool,” says John Rivenburgh, winemaker and owner of Kerrville Hills Winery. “Extraction pulls important components like color, tannins, acids, and aromatics from the grapes, and is the key to successful fermentation in wine. The punch down tool was the first method to get more extraction. As science and technology has improved winemaking, so has the process of extraction. We’re really excited to start using flash détente right away by running test batches in July and using it as part of our fermentation process in the upcoming harvest.”
John Rivenburgh is one of the few people in Texas who has experience with using flash détente technology in winemaking. He helped bring the first flash machine to Texas in 2013 at Bending Branch Winery and made award-winning wines with the technology. Since then, Rivenburgh has continued to work with Pellenc America to research uses for flash including developing protocols for condensing and enriching finished wines. Kerrville Hills Winery will employ flash détente to enhance finished wines as well.
Kerrville Hills Winery will initially use this advanced technology with Grenache grapes in the upcoming harvest to increase the density of flavors and color for a more balanced finished wine. It improves the efficiency of fermentation with reduced time required for cap management to process red grapes faster. Rivenburgh will use flash détente only for about 10 to 15 percent of the fermentation, a process called co-fermentation, to ensure it delivers the proper amount of tannins prior to blending.
John Rivenburgh says, “We will use flash détente as a tool to enhance the natural qualities of the grapes found in the vineyard. We will incrementally blend the flash water into grape must to enhance the terroir qualities of the wine and finish fermentation.”
The Kerrville Hills Winery flash détente machine is available for winery incubator members to use as an added benefit of membership. It is another tool in the arsenal of state-of-the-art equipment at the winery incubator. In addition, winery incubator members will be able to take full advantage of Rivenburgh’s extensive experience with successfully operating flash détente. Because the 40 feet long by 12 feet tall machine is built on a trailer, it is a mobile machine that can be taken to other wineries to process grapes.