What Flash Détente is and Why This Winery is Trying It

We’ve all been told it’s important to relax, but this is apparently especially true of grapes.

Flash détente, which roughly translates into “immediate relaxation,” is defined as a thermovinification process that works by quickly heating grapes to near boiling, then immediately cools them in a vacuum. 

Beginning with the 2021 harvest, Kerrville HIlls Winery is introducing flash détente thermovinification at its winery and wine incubator, purchasing a Mobile Flash Détente Oenosmart system from Pellenc America, Inc. 

Kerrville Hills Owner and Winemaker John Rivenburgh, who purchased the winery in 2019 to establish a wine incubator — a communal space for educated winemaking accelerating boutique operations — said the process will significantly improve the wine quality.

Rivenburgh said he was one of the few people in Texas with experience using the technology, bringing the first flash machine to the Lone Star State in 2013 and using it to make award-winning wines.

“Flash détente is the ultimate extraction tool,” Rivenburgh said. “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 have 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.”

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.

Kerrville Hills Winery will employ flash détente to enhance finished wines as well.

The technology will initially be used on Grenache grapes with the intention of increasing the density of flavors and color and improving the efficiency of fermentation. Rivenburgh said he 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.

The Kerrville Hills Winery flash détente machine is available for winery incubator members to use. Because the 40 feet long by 12 feet tall machine is built on a trailer, it is a mobile machine and can be taken to other wineries to process grapes.

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