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As the juice is extracted, it flows into open tanks (known locally as ‘belons’) where it is treated with sulphites (sulphur dioxide or SO2) at the rate of 6-10g/hl depending on the varietal, the condition of the grapes and the musts in question (whether cuvee or taille).
Sulphites have antiseptic properties that help to inhibit the growth of moulds and unfriendly indigenous bacteria. Their antioxidant action safeguards the physicochemical and sensory quality of the wines.
Débourbage is the settling of the freshly pressed grape juice prior to fermentation, so as to produce wines with the purest expression of fruit.
The next stage is ‘débourbage’ (literally ‘de-sludging’): the process of allowing solids (particles of skin, pips, etc) to settle to the bottom of the juice. Naturally occurring enzymes or enzyme additives cause the suspended particles to clump together in flocs, which are eliminated 12-24 hours later when the wine is racked. These residues (1-4% of the total volume) must be declared to the authorities, and are then sent for distillation.
After racking, the clarified juice is transferred to the fermentation room to begin the winemaking process.