Saignée is a winemaking technique that is primarily used in red winemaking to concentrate a ferment by removing juice. The term saignée is French and comes from the verb ‘to bleed’.
Saignée involves the removal (bleeding off or draining off) of a proportion of juice from a tank of crushed red grapes. This technique increases the amount of skins relative to juice in the tank and typically results in a concentration effect, producing richer wines with more colour and tannin. The juice that has been removed is kept and fermented separately and is often made into a rosé style wine. Various studies over the years have shown that both colour and phenolics are increased when saignée is used (Singleton 1972, Gawel et al. 2001, Gerbaux 1993). A study on the effect of saignée was performed by Zamora et al. 1994 over three years using the variety Malbec with 10% of juice removed in the saignée treatment. In all three years of this study the saignée wines contained more colour and more tannin of larger size compared to the control wine.
Practical and logistical considerations
The timing of juice removal is typically post-crushing, with removal being easiest once fermentation has commenced and the cap has risen. Juice that has been run off at this stage will contain some colour, providing the option to produce a rosé wine with the drained juice.
The amount of juice bled off can vary from 10 to 20%; however, there is no evidence that removal of 20% is more beneficial than the removal of 10% (Gardener 2015).
Gardner, D.M. 2015. Winemaking practices believed to affect red wine color stability. Wine & Grapes U.
Gawel, R., P.G. Iland, P.A. Leske, and C.G. Dunn. 2001. Compositional and sensory differences in Syrah wines following juice runoff prior to fermentation. J. Wine Res. 12: 5-18.
Gerbaux, V. 1993. Etude de quelques conditions de cuvaison susceptibles d’augmenter la composition polyphénolique des vins de Pinot noir. Rev. Oenol. 69: 15-18.
Godden, P. 2019. Ask the AWRI: Saignée. Aust. N.Z. Grapegrower Winemaker (665): 91-92.
Godden, P. 2019. Saignée – do the benefits outweigh the costs? AWRI Tech. Rev. (239): 5-9.
Harbertson, J.F., Mireles, M.S., Harwood, E.D., Weller, K.M. and Ross, C.F. 2009. Chemical and sensory effects of saignée, water addition, and extended maceration on high brix must. Am. J. Enol. Vitic. 60: 450-460.
Singleton, V.L. 1972. Effects on red wine quality of removing juice before fermentation to simulate variation in berry size. Am. J. Enol. Vitic. 23: 106-113.
Zamora, F., G. Luengo, P. Margalef, M. Magriña, and L. Arola. 1994. Nota. Efecto del sangrado sobre el color y la composición en compuestos fenólicos del vino tinto. Rev. Esp. Cienc. Tecnol. Aliment. 34: 663-671.