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How Burgundy Wine is Made

Vinification is the process of turning the grapes into wine. It has changed little over the years but there are variations in technique however. Winemakers may follow family tradition for example and of course they take into consideration the characteristics of the plot and the vintage.

Once the grape juice or must has completed the alcoholic fermentation, and has turned into wine, ageing in vats or barrels begins. This gives the wine its personality, its unique characteristics and complex aromas.

making Red Wine

Pinot Noir is the dominant grape variety for red wine in Burgundy. This grape is a particularly sensitive variety, requiring careful handling. Vinification processes vary from winemaker to winemaker - some for example destalk the grapes, others process whole bunches. For white wines, the grapes are pressed on arrival in the winery, but for red wines they are placed in vats to macerate. The juice is clear to start with and requires contact with the skins and pips to bring colour and tannins to the wine. During this maceration process, the alcoholic fermentation begins, either naturally or sometimes it is triggered with the addition of yeasts. Each day, the cap of skin and pips is broken up and pushed down into the juice to help the development of color and tannins. The process is known as pigeage and used to be done with the feet. Nowadays, a special tool is used.

When fermentation is complete, the wine is pressed and then placed in vats or barrels for ageing. During the ageing process, the red wines undergo a second malolactic fermentation, during which the malic acid in the wine turns to lactic acid, making the wine smoother.

The red wine making Process

1. Destemming and Crushing

Crushing bursts the grapes and releases the juice


2. Vatting

Juice, skin, seeds and possibly some stalks are put in the tank for maceration. Colour and tannins pass into the juice


3. Cap punching/Pumping over

The pomace cap is plunged into the juice. The juice is pumped up from the bottom of the tank to soak the pomace cap.


4. Alcoholic Fermentation

Yeast, natural or added, turns the must sugars into alcohol. Carbon dioxide is released.


5. Running off / Devatting


With the fermentation complete, the free-run wine goes into a tank or barrel. The marc at the bottom of the container is removed


6. Pressing


The marc is pressed and the remaining juice is called press wine


7. Blending/Must settling


Free-run and press wine are traditionally blended before maturing.


8. Malolactic Fermentation


Micro-organisms turn the malic acid in the grapes into lactic acid giving off CO2 and slightly reducing the acidity.


9. Racking/


The wine is racked (moved to another container) and sulphite is added to prevent any undesirable micro-organisms. This step is optional.


10. Maturing


The wine matures in 228 litre barrels for 8-24 months. Gas exchanges occur through the wood.


11. Racking/


The wine goes into a tank for blending and sulphite adjustment.


12. Fining


Protein, such as egg white draws any impurities in the wine to the bottom of the tank.


13. Filtering and Bottling


Filtering removes any impurities. The wine is then bottled, corked and labelled.


This You Tube video shows the processes



the processes for making white wine

For white wine, the grapes are pressed straight after harvesting, usually without destalking. Here the skins and pips are discarded unlike in the red wine process of maceration. The juice is then put into oak barrels or vats and alcoholic fermentation takes place. In Burgundy, a secondary malolactic fermentation takes places where the malic acid in the juice turns into lactic acid making the wines smoother. In wines made elsewhere, this second fermentation doesn't happen.



The grapes are crushed in a pneumatic or plate press releasing the cloudy juice. It is collected in a trough and then pumped into a tank.


2. Must Settling/Racking

The juice, or must, contains particles which settle, called the lees. To accelerate the settling, enzymes can be added or cold treatment applied. The clear juice is collected in a tank or in barrels.


3.Alcoholic Fermentation/Racking


Malic acid is turned into lactic acid giving good aging potential and more stable wine. As the temperature warms up, during fermentation in the spring, carbon dioxide is given off and the wine is racked.


4.Second Malolactic Fermentation


When the malolactic fermentation is complete, the wine is racked again



5. Racking/Sulphiting


Adding sulphite prevents micro-organisms from damaging the wine and protects it from oxidation


6. Maturing


The wine is stored in 228 litre barrels for 6 to 18 months on average. Gas exchanges pass through the wood and the wood yields compounds into the wine. When the wine is matured on lees, it is stirred to keep the fine particles in suspension.


7. Racking/Blending


The wine is put into the tank and blended as required sometimes with wine from other parcels in the same appellation


8. Fining


By adding protein such as egg white, any particles in the wine form clusters in suspension which settle at the bottom of the tank.


Using a variety of techniques the wine may be filtered before bottling and corking.



You Tube video of the processes


Information, diagrams and photos supplied by the BIVB, the Burgundy Wine Board.