VintageTexas Sunday ‘Cyclopedia of Wine: Red Wine Making – Pigéage and Délestage

VintageTexas Sunday ‘Cyclopedia of Wine: Red Wine Making – Pigéage and Délestage

A technique used in red winemaking is the punching down the cap of grape skins that floats to the top of the tank during the beginning of the wine’s fermentation. This is done several times a day, occasionally more frequently, to extract color, flavor, and tannin from the fermenting juice. This technique is referred to as punch-down or by its French word – Pigéage (pronounced – Pid-gee-ahj).

An alternative and increasingly utilized technique for processing red wines is called Délestage (pronounced – Del-ess-tahj; means “lightening”). The first step is to drain the tank through a bottom valve, into an intermediate container by letting the fermenting wine flow freely across a screen to capture and remove some of the seeds. Seed removal is an important step in the improvement of the wine quality as the seeds are a source of harsh tannins. From the intermediate container, a pump and return hose is used to spray the wine into a second tank or back on top of the cap in the fermentation tank. As the wine is pumped over and sprayed it becomes aerated and the cap on top of the fermenting wine is agitated.

The benefits of délestage are many-fold: First and foremost, this process provides a distribution of heat generated during fermentation and aerates the fermenting wine. This process gently extracts phenolic compounds by oxygenating the juice to produce a softer, less astringent wine exhibiting more fruity flavors, softer tannins and more stable color. On the flip side, given the lower concentration of tannins, délestage-fermented wines will generally not bottle age as long as traditionally fermented, tannin-rich, oak-aged wines. This technique has been increasingly utilized with as the popularity of fruit-driven wines has become more prevalent.

Russ the délestageur at Perissos Vineyards ( in Burnet, Texas.

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