Dry ice and wine production

Temperature control during wine production is a key element that influences the quality and final characteristics of the product.

From rapidly cooling grapes after picking to managing temperature during fermentation, winemakers are looking for efficient methods to maintain the high standards of their production. In this context, dry ice represents an innovative solution, offering significant advantages compared to traditional cooling methods.

Dry ice, or solid carbon dioxide, has become a valuable tool in winemaking, used especially for rapidly cooling grapes immediately after harvest. This method is essential to prevent spontaneous fermentation – a process that can start quickly under high temperature conditions, affecting the quality of the must. Efficient dry ice cooling reduces the risk of activating enzymes and unwanted microorganisms, ensuring a pure and controlled basis for fermentation.

The fundamental difference between dry ice and normal ice (frozen water) is the former’s ability to cool without adding additional moisture. In winemaking, the presence of extra water can dilute the must, thus reducing the sugar concentration and, implicitly, the alcoholic potential of the finished wine. Dry ice sublimes (going directly from solid to gas without liquefaction), thus avoiding any addition of water and maintaining the optimum sugar concentration in the wort.

Cold maceration is a process used in winemaking to extract color, aromas and tannins from the skins of grapes before fermentation. The use of dry ice in this phase has a dual role. On the one hand, rapid cooling and maintaining a low temperature inhibits unwanted enzyme activity and the growth of microorganisms. On the other hand, solid carbon dioxide sublimes, creating a layer of CO2 at the base of the maceration tank. This denser-than-air gas layer creates a hypoxic (oxygen-poor) environment that protects the wort from oxidation and the growth of unwanted bacteria until controlled fermentation with selected yeast strains begins. Thus, winemakers can obtain wines with richer aromas and a more complex profile.

In today’s context, concerns about sustainability and environmental impact are central to all industries, including winemaking. The use of carbonic ice presents advantages from this perspective as well, being considered a “greener” method compared to other cooling processes. Dry ice production involves capturing CO2 that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere by heavy industry, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Also, its cooling efficiency reduces the need for large, energy-consuming refrigeration systems. However, it is important to consider the origin of the CO2 used for dry ice production and the sustainability practices of the suppliers to maximize the environmental benefits of this method.

Numerous winemakers around the world have begun to implement dry ice in their processes, seeing significant improvements in the quality of the wine produced. For example, in famous wine regions such as Bordeaux and Napa Valley, the use of dry ice for rapid cooling of grapes and in the cold maceration process has become a common practice. This method is appreciated not only for its efficiency, but also for its positive impact on the aromatic profile and tannin structure in the wines.

The adoption of dry ice in winemaking offers a number of significant benefits, from improving the quality and complexity of wine, to reducing the ecological impact of the production process. By preventing spontaneous fermentation, maintaining the sugar concentration and protecting the must during the cold maceration phase, dry ice presents itself as a modern and effective solution for winemakers who want to experiment and innovate. While sustainability continues to be an important factor, the use of dry ice in winemaking is a clear example of how innovative technology and methods can contribute to the production of high quality wines in harmony with the environment.