Definition - What does Pigeage mean?
Pigéage is a french word that literally means "punching down". The term refers to a wine-making process, which takes place during the initial stages of fermentation, when the cap of the grape (skin, stem and seeds) starts to appear on top of the vat in which the wine ferments. These floating grape solids are then punched, pressed or pushed back into the wine several times for the proper extraction of color, flavor and tannin from the cap grapes. And thus, this process of extraction is known as Pigéage.
The process provides color, texture and astringency to the wine. It also helps ventilate the wine, allowing it to reduce the process of oxidation. Additionally, pigéage helps protect wine from bacteria and mold.
WineFrog explains Pigeage
Pigéage is considered to be a classic french wine-making method where the grapes are stomped down in open vats by foot. A process particularly used for making the worlds finest red wines. Nowadays, the technique of punching down the grape caps can be achieved by both manual and automated processes.
Most of the small wineries do manual punching, whereas larger one’s rely on automatic methods of punching down like Remontage (Pump Over) or the use of Rotary Fermenters. However, manual punching is considered to be the best method and is gentler on the wine.
Pigéage is critical for a wine, as the grape skins are the source of the tannin, flavor and color. Thus, the cap is required to be punched or mixed through the juice several times a day for a specific period of time to ensure only the finest quality wine is being produced.