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Texas Hill Country's New Flash Détente Machine

by Laura Madonna
May 19, 2014

Texas may not produce the most wine in America. But let’s kick them up a notch on winemaking technology.

Bending Branch Winery sustainably farms 20 acres of vineyards in Comfort, Texas at the gateway to Texas Hill Country. Co-winemakers John Riverburgh and Robert Young, MD specialize in robust premium red wines, including an award-winning estate Texas Tannat and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Dr. Young recently presented his findings from ongoing experiments of deep cold maceration of Tempranillo at the 2014 Newsom Grape Day symposium. However, it was his reference to the coming installation of a Della Toffola flash détente machine that had growers and vintners excited, as most continue to deal with challenging harvests from fickle weather conditions.

“We have for the last five years been researching various techniques to enhance the extraction of tannins and anthocyanins from red grapes,” Young says. “Traditional wine making techniques leave perhaps 60 to70 percent of these phenolic compounds in the pumice that remains after fermentation, while flash détente, extracts most of the skin anthocyanins and tannins but not impact seed tannin extraction.”

Flash détente has been widely used in Europe for many years and in California for the past four. The machines are expensive—upwards of six figures. Texas wines are increasingly recognized for high quality whites and reds, but area winemakers did not have access to the Flash De'tente technology. “As a Texas Hill Country winery, Bending Branch is committed to helping raise the quality bar in our area and we believe that flash détente will be an important tool to add to our wine making portfolio, says Young. “Our flash unit will be delivered in June, 2014 and will be operational for the 2014 harvest. We also will make it available to select other Texas wineries,” he says.

Della Tofolla has built a special unit, a BioThermal Cooler-5, to fit Bending Branch’s boutique size winery. It will process 5 tons of fruit per hour. The BTC5 will be based on the crush pad at the winery and will be the first totally automated Flash unit in the United States. It is also designed to be transported by truck to other locations. The BTC5 consists of a boiler, an immersion circuit, a cooling tower, a cooler/maceration tank and a storage tank. Heating temperatures are 80-85 degrees C and cooling temperatures are 30-35 degrees C.

Young expects that the outcomes will be similar with Texas fruit as it has been with grapes in other wine growing regions, i.e. removal of methoxy-pyrazines and other unwanted flavors into disposable flash water, increased color and skin tannin levels, enhanced varietal fruit flavors and removal of unwanted bacteria (e.g.acetobacter) and fungus and pathological enzymes. “Bending Branch will continue our research on extraction of tannins and anthocyanins in a commercial setting adding the results to our current data base,” he says.

Additionally, flash has the potential to improve wine quality in years where Texas growing conditions are challenging and harvested fruit is not in optimal condition. Young says, “The frequent weather challenges we have in Texas make this application perhaps more important than other wine making regions that have more consistent growing conditions.”

As Bending Branch and select wineries experiment with flash and other transformational ‘Nld World-New World’ wine making methods, the goal of further improving the quality of wines in the Texas Hill Country is already at hand.

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