Well, this is the week for tongue twisters! We talked about malolactic fermentation for Chardonnay and now we need to give red wines equal time by visiting extended maceration.
As you know, all of the color and most of the flavor and texture and tannin in red wine comes from the grape skins – the juice runs clear.
So, for red wine is made by fermenting the juice and skins together. But, for many winemakers, the week or so that it takes for the wine to complete fermentation isn’t long enough to get all those goodies out of the skins. There are three ways to go when the winemaker want more skin-contact time:
1. Do a cold soak: The winemaker delays the onset of fermentation for a few days by keeping the juice cool. It’s not uncommon to blanket the crushed fruit with dry ice, which not only cools the must down – it prevents oxidation. This technique helps to get the goodies, including the relatively supple tannins from the skins, up front, before there’s any alcohol in the mix (alcohol extracts seed tannin, which is harsher than skin tannin). Many who do a cold soak follow up with early pressing (getting the wine drained away from the skins) to minimize seed tannin extraction. My Diamond Mountain client favors this approach because her vineyard (and mountain appellations in general) tends to produce very firm tannins.
2. Extended Maceration: Once the wine is made, let the skins and wine rest together for days or weeks. More on this below.
3. Do both. I have a valley floor client who goes with this. Valley floor vineyards aren’t often as tannic as hillside situations. Continue reading