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Dealcoholisation: how to intervene without interfering with the original colour, structure and aromatic characteristics

Dealcoholisation: how to intervene without interfering with the original colour, structure and aromatic characteristics

The worldwide demand for drinks with moderate alcohol content is growing. But what is driving producers to dealcoholise their wine? What technologies are available?

This year, too, has seen the harvesting of grapes with excessive sugar content in the musts, resulting in wines with high alcohol contents. In warm regions, this phenomenon is caused by global warming, which is very evident in viticulture and the agricultural sector in general. One could work on the agronomic-viticultural level with early harvests, but for full expression of the wines it is necessary to search for phenolic and aromatic maturity, which can only be obtained when the sugar concentration in the grapes is high.

We have more and more wines that exceed 15% v/v alcohol: this alcohol content leads to a sensory imbalance in the wine and can discourage the choice of bottle. In fact, there is a growing demand for zero-alcohol wines and beers or low-alcohol drinks, both for medical or health reasons and because of the growing trend towards low-calorie foods and drinks. Teetotalers are moving towards fully alcohol-free beverages, and a conscious and conscientious consumption approach is growing among young people.

The first requests for the application of dealcolation technology from JUCLAS, a VASONGROUP company that designs and manufactures equipment solutions for the wine and beverage industry, came 15 years ago from South Africa and stemmed from the need to reduce the alcohol content of drinks destined for Northern European countries. Later, the same interest was expressed by South America, the United States, Australia and Germany, the first in Europe to feel the need to dealcolare wines, especially to obtain zero-alcohol sparkling wines through a total dealcolation process.

While it is true that the first applications of dealcoholisation processes were launched in countries outside the EEC, and that in some countries the alcohol level determines the payment of heavy excise duties on the export of drinks, it is also true that in Europe dealcoholisation has been regulated for over ten years: in fact European legislation (Regulation (EC) No 606/2009 and subsequent amendments) allows for the possibility of reducing the alcohol content of wines up to a maximum of 20%, with the aim of improving their organoleptic balance.

A new regulation of wines with reduced alcohol content will open up exclusive market opportunities: responding to a request from the European wine industry, in the new reform of the CAP - Common Agricultural Policy, dealcoholates, products with zero alcohol (ethanol less than 0.5% by volume) or with a very low alcohol content, will be able to be called 'wine'.

In the early 2000s, JUCLAS developed and patented a membrane-based wine dealcolation system: a patented process (nr. 0001387862) involving the inclusion of Mastermind® Remove, which makes it possible to lower the amount of alcohol in a wine without interfering with its original colour, structure and aromatic characteristics.
This is a gentle approach on the wine, conducted at room temperature and pressure, by passing the wine over contactor membranes, where there is a hydrophobic interface that allows the passage of alcohol in gaseous form to the extracting part. 
"This system works at room temperature, so it allows the preservation of all the aromatic part of the wines." Explains Alessandro Angilella, General Manager of JUCLAS. 

The patent in particular relates to the separation process involving contact between the wine and the water: the permeation of the alcohol through the membrane occurs through a physical phenomenon called perextraction, which makes it possible to obtain wines with lower alcohol contents without altering the initial organoleptic characteristics. 

Mastermind® Remove ensures well-defined hourly flow rates of extracted ethanol that depend on the processing temperature, the quantity of extraction solvent (water) and the surface of the membrane used: using the DEHALOCOLIZard predictive calculation program, it is possible to establish the times and consumption of solvent (water) required for treatment.
Mastermind® Remove is available in models with 10, 20, 50, 100 and 200 litres/hour of extracted alcohol. Mastermind® Remove 1, a model that can also be used in the laboratory, has been developed to treat small masses or for orientation tests. 
As an example, the parameters involved in reducing the initial alcohol content from 15.5°Alc. to 13.8°Alc. are described below.

Juclas program

Figure 1 - JUCLAS program to define the parameters involved in the reduction of 1.7°Alc. on a hypothetical wine at 15.5°Alc with a Mastermind® Remove 20 system.

The JUCLAS DEHALOCOLIZard program was developed to present all the treatment parameters at a glance (Figure 1). 

For descriptive simplicity, a mass of 50 hL at a temperature of 20°C was considered. With the Mastermind® Remove 20 system, a 50 hL wine tank under the operating conditions indicated, it is possible to carry out the assumed treatment in less than three and a half hours. Water is used as the exchange driver: the speed of alcohol removal with the perextraction technique is dependent on the temperatures of the two process liquids.

With Mastermind® Remove, even very high levels of alcohol reduction can be achieved under well-defined conditions. For these characteristics it is a technique that is applicable to the refinement of quality wines, in the search for the "sweet spot", that is, the presence of alcohol most suitable for the best expressiveness of each wine.

For further information you can contcat the following e-mail info@juclas.it 

Published on 03/16/2022
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