Grape must hyper-oxygenation was developed in the 1970's in order to stabilize white wines and protect against oxidation. This technique was largely controversial considering the effects of this practice on the wine sensory profile, especially when used on musts such as Sauvignon Blanc which have thiol based aromatic profiles.
This article presents the knowledge acquired after fifteen years of research about white grape must oxygenation practices on a number of white grape varieties from different countries (France, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Chile, Argentina, United States and Australia). These trials have demonstrated the efficacy of this practice in wine stabilization to protect against oxidation. However, it appeared necessary to adapt oxygen doses supplied in the must in order to optimize the effect on the mouth feel qualities and the wine aromas.
A summary of the effects noted on the wine aromas is discussed with a particular focus on thiol type wines. In accordance with recent studies on this subject, it was shown that must oxygenation does not diminish the thiol concentration in the wines and can even cause an increase in the «thiol» characteristics identified during tastings. Finally, the value of this technique in different vinification strategies (reductive, oxidative, without sulphites) is discussed.