A spoonful of sugar. 2021 marks the return to Chaptalisation

At a time when most producers have become used to worrying about how to avoid high alcohol levels in their wine, 2021 brings a return to the days when it was customary to chaptalize.

Credit: Kim Ward
Credit: Kim Ward

As the French magazine Vitisphere reports, risks of rot across France are forcing producers to pick grapes that are less ripe than they would wish, and to chaptalize their fermentation vats as their parents would have done. 

However, this is not as straightforward as it was in the past. Prices of sugar and RCM – Rectified Concentrated musts are rising fast. Price hikes of as much as 40-50% for RCM are reported in southern France, where the use of beet sugar is prohibited. In many regions producers are said to be stockpiling to avoid running out. It is also possible that there may be a return to the traditional pattern of purchasing domestic sugar in supermarkets and its illegal use. 

An alternative to sugar or RCM will be the legal addition to the 2021 of up to 15 percent of powerful 2020 wine and its replacement by the lighter young vintage. And possibly the illegal addition of higher percentages. Cynics suggest that buyers who have already selected 2020 wine in vat may be advised to retaste it before bottling.

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