What do you mean by vatting?

Answered by Frank Schwing

Vatting, in the context of winemaking, refers to a crucial stage in the process where the juice extracted from grapes is placed into large vats to undergo fermentation. This stage is essential in transforming the grape juice into wine. During vatting, the natural sugars in the grape juice are converted into alcohol by yeast, creating the distinct flavors and characteristics associated with wine.

The process of vatting typically follows the crushing and pressing of the grapes, where the juice is separated from the skins, seeds, and stems. Once the juice is obtained, it is transferred into fermentation vessels, which can be stainless steel tanks, wooden barrels, or concrete vats. These vessels provide an environment conducive to the fermentation process.

Fermentation is a natural chemical reaction that occurs when yeast consumes the sugars in the grape juice and converts them into alcohol. This process produces heat and releases carbon dioxide as a byproduct. During vatting, winemakers carefully control the fermentation temperature and monitor the progress of the process to ensure optimal conditions for the yeast to thrive and create the desired flavors in the wine.

The duration of vatting can vary depending on the winemaker’s preference and the style of wine being produced. Red wines typically undergo a longer vatting period compared to white wines. This is because red wines often benefit from extended contact with the grape skins, which adds color, tannins, and flavor compounds to the wine. The skins can be left in contact with the juice for days or even weeks, allowing for a process known as maceration.

During vatting, winemakers may also choose to perform various techniques to further enhance the wine’s quality and complexity. These techniques may include pump-overs or punch-downs, where the juice is circulated over the grape skins to extract more color and tannins. Additionally, some winemakers opt for extended maceration or use different yeast strains to influence the wine’s aromas and flavors.

Once the vatting period is complete, the wine is separated from the solids and transferred to different vessels for further aging, clarification, or blending. This marks the end of the vatting stage and the beginning of the next steps in the winemaking process.

In my personal experience with winemaking, I have witnessed the significance of the vatting stage in creating wines with distinct characteristics. The choice of fermentation vessels, the duration of vatting, and the techniques employed during this stage can greatly impact the final product. It is during vatting that the potential of the grape juice is realized, as it transforms into a complex and enjoyable wine.

To summarize, vatting is a crucial stage in winemaking where the grape juice is placed in vats to undergo fermentation. This process converts the sugars in the juice into alcohol, creating the distinct flavors and characteristics of wine. Vatting allows winemakers to control the fermentation process, extract desired compounds from the grape skins, and shape the final product.