Many winemakers want to vinify grapes with ripe flavors that can only be attained at high Brix levels. But this leads to wines with high alcohol that can be out of balance. So an increasing number of wineries are using different types of dealcoholization methods on their wines. As described by Alan Goldfarb of Appellation America, the 3 major types of dealcoholization are reverse osmosis, using a spinning cone, or adding water.
Vinovation is a company that specializes in dealcoholization through reverse osmosis. Vinovation allows their customers to taste the wine at .1% increments so they can find one of the “sweet spots” where alcohol is balanced with fruit flavors. The company argues that their alcohol adjustment services allow, “winemakers to harvest grapes based on flavor characteristics, independent of Brix.”
ConeTech is a company that specializes in dealcoholization using the spinning cone. The spinning cone is a cylinder that removes alcohol through a process called “vacuum distillation.” According to their website, ConeTech owns the largest alcohol adjustment center in the world and is employed by over 600 wineries. Tony Dann, President of Cone Tech, says the the spinning cone, “Enables temperatures measurably lower than other distillation processes.” This is in contrast to reverse osmosis, where the wine needs to be heated to be dealcoholized.
The percentage of alcohol in a wine can also be reduced by adding water, but as Goldfarb points out, this is illegal except for when the fermentation process is “stuck.”
Dealcoholization is not just used to balance the components of a wine. Many producers want to make wines that are under 14.001% alcohol because they are taxed less. Under this threshold, the tax is $1.07 a gallon; wineries are taxed $1.57 per gallon for wine above 14.001%. There are clearly legitimate reasons for dealcoholization, but it remains unclear if reverse osmosis and the spinning cone strip the wine of any of its inherent quality.