Wine Word of the Week: Chaptalization

By Kori ~ January 18th, 2011.

This week’s Wine Word of the Week is chaptalization.

Official definition from Jancis Robinson’s The Oxford Companion to Wine:
Chaptalization is a common wine-making practice, named after its French promulgator Jean-Antoine Chaptal, whereby the final alcoholic strength of a wine is increased by the addition of sugar to the grape juice or must, before and/or during fermentation. Contrary to popular belief, Chaptal did not invent the process, which had been the subject of common experiment, not least by the innovative French chemist Pierre-Joseph Macquer. ….

Although the practice is still commonplace, and is indeed the norm in northern Europe, potential alcoholic strength is increasingly raised by adding products other than beet or cane sugar. …. Within the EU, permission to chaptalize depends on the EU climatic zone in which an area falls. …. A country’s own regulations may also forbid the practice, as throughout Italy.

Layman’s terms from Kori:
Chaptalization is the winemaking process sometimes employed by winemakers in which sugar is added to the musts derived from grapes that failed to achieve optimal ripeness. Only enough sugar is added to achieve a stable alcohol level in the finished wine. Chaptalization is subject to varying regulations in different states and countries.

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