Vinification Integrale

Just written up a visit to Anthonij Rupert, a South African producer with one of the most remarkable wineries you’ll ever see.


For their top reds, they use a system of barrel fermentation called Vinification Integrale. Normally, barrel fermenting reds isn’t possible because of the skins, pips and other solid bits. Some winemakers take one end off the barrel and stick it on the other end, and ferment grapes this way. But Vinification Integrale is a more sophisticated system.

One of the heads of the barrel is replaced by perspex, and a metal device is inserted into it. This contains a valve which releases carbon dioxide during the fermentation, as well as a means for stirring up the grape mass.

The barrels are filled with berries, crushed or whole, and then sealed. They are placed on an Oxoline system – a robust racking system with wheels – that allows them to be rotated a number of times a day. This makes barrel fermentation of red wines feasible.

It is not totally clear what the benefit of barrel fermenting red wines in this way is. A better integration of oak and wine?

7 comments to Vinification Integrale

  • The barrels seem fairly hi-tech (certainly compared to regular ones) – I wonder would their use add much onto the final bottle price.

  • This is surely winemaking as a James Bond villain would do it!

  • Very cool. It always excites me to see innovation in a field that is often brainwashed to believe tradition is best. Seeing new ways to utilize, make or assemble barrels is especially interesting. I doubt thousand (?) year old technology is perfectly optimized in the precise form it took at that time for use in modern wine context.

    @Paul Kiernan, everything I’ve read indicates that the correlation between cost of production and retail price of high end wines is pretty weak. While this system certainly looks costly, the difference between using new oak vs. neutral/seasoned oak works out to a few $US per bottle. I can’t imagine this being much different. I’m assuming they’re using this process for premium wines, in which case the retail prices should be high enough to compensate easily for a few $US cost increase.

  • I did a bit of barrel fermentation this year, just for fun and as an experiment as I usually use stainless steel. (http://bit.ly/cwsBhy)
    I don’t think there’s anything intrisically right or wrong about innovation OR tradition: each case is different, no? ie, some inovations and bad/harmful and some are good/beneficial. Same applies to traditions.
    Talking about innovation, there’s a barrel-maker in Spain who has just started making/selling SQUARE oak barrels, ie cubes!!! I’ll look out the webpage and post it in case anyone’s interested!

  • Fabio – thanks for the link – they look very wrong, but I suppose they could work?

  • Yes, they do look a bit strange. I’ve never actually seen one in real life, but I know a fellow wine-maker (in Mota del Cuervo, La Mancha) who’s just bought one, so next time I nip down to see him, I’ll take some photos and ask him about it.

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