Most commonly associated with its use in the Beaujolais region of France, Carbonic Maceration is employed to make light bodied fruity reds for drinking early. The alternative name of “whole bunch fermentation” points to the main difference to normal winemaking processes. Whole bunches of grapes are delicately placed in a vat under a layer of Carbon Dioxide, thus excluding any Oxygen, and fermentation starts within the grapes producing a small amount of ethanol as well as trace aromatic components.
After a period of time in this environment of anything up to 3 weeks the wine production is continued as normal. The result though will be a red that is less tannic, less acidic, for immediate consumption with little ability to age. In reality the process is rarely 100% as when grapes are placed in a vat their own weight breaks open those at the bottom which then begin to ferment normally. Therefore alcoholic fermentation and carbonic maceration often proceed simultaneously and leads to modifications and the adoption of semi-carbonic maceration.