By Branden Hamby
Thermoflash, known widely in Europe as “flash détente” or flash release, is a process of thermovinification created during the 1990’s in the south of France. This process was created to reduce the time of red grape fermentation and improve wine quality.
Most European winemakers used it to treat under ripe grapes or to remove the mold characteristic during a tough harvest. It works by heating the must of crushed grapes to a set temperature (usually around 185°F/85°C) then sending the hot grapes to a high vacuum chamber where temperature drops quickly and causes the water in the skins’ cells to evaporate almost instantly, causing the water in the berries to turn to steam. The rapid expansion of steam causes the cell walls of the vacuoles in the skins to explode granting immediate color and tannin extraction while also releasing aromatic compounds. The evaporated water is then put through a condenser and remains as a separate byproduct or gets added back to the must later for fermentation.
Della Toffola is a well known brand in the wine industry having been in business since the 1960s designing and manufacturing quality equipment for wineries and winemakers. Della Toffola U.S.A. opened their doors in 2009 and with it came Their Biothermo Cooler Vinification System. The technology has been around Europe for a decade or two but the process is finally taking hold in the U.S.
“Most wineries in the US use it to help remove vegetal characteristics or help with color and tannin extraction,” says Rick Jones, Owner of Richard S. Jones Wine Consulting, “but other uses have been found to mitigate the lack of berry hangtime or wet and humid conditions.”
Rick is a consultant for Della Toffola but also a well known winemaker and innovator in the industry. He will be moderating an educational session on Flash Détente technology and how it impacts winemaking for Eastern winemakers at the U.S. Wine and Beverage Expo (USBevX). “This process gives winemakers another tool to craft style. It gives the wine more stability and allows you to create wine off the existing footprint of the grape instead of using additives to make up for lack of tannin or color.”
The benefits of this technology include increased color and tannin extraction as well as the denaturing or breakdown of laccase and mold. This is great for Eastern United States winemaking regions that deal with cool and humid conditions that may not let the fruit fully develop or the humidity causes too much mold and rot. It also lifts fruit expression and increases the stability of the must while lessening the expression of vegetal notes. Some operators and winemakers are testing the system to see if it can make wine based concentrates as well.
“I think this technology has only seen the beginning of influencing winemaking styles,” remarks Rick. “The true test is getting these winemakers to use it and figuring out what it can really do for their wine quality and finished product.”
Find out more about the U.S. Wine and Beverage Expo, Feb. 21-22 in Washington, D.C