A Red Wine Secret: Extended Maceration

Maceration in action.

Winemakers are full of secrets. They collect little tricks of the trade that help them concoct exceptional wines the same way chefs safeguard secret ingredients and clever techniques, but sooner or later word gets out and everyone catches on.

Extended maceration is a red wine technique that has been around for some time, but it’s a winemaking trend that you’re likely to hear more about in coming years. It’s a winemaking process that is known to add incredible depth to red wines and it’s becoming increasingly popular around the world.

What exactly is extended maceration?

Extended maceration is when seeds and skins of grapes are left in contact with juice or wine for a longer period of time. The goal of extended maceration is to increase color, flavor, and tannin structure in wine. You’re likely to see these two terms thrown around to describe this process at tasting rooms:

Cold-soaking: When extended maceration is used on unfermented grape juice.

Extended Maceration: When extended maceration is used after the grapes have been fermented into wine.

Cold Soaking

The process of cold-soaking greatly increases the extraction of pigment and pigment-increasing compounds. In short, it makes the wine’s color more intense. Thus, it’s a popular technique for wines made from grapes with thinner skins including Pinot Noir and Grenache (grapes with less pigment to give need more time to give it). Cold soaking happens right when the grapes are crushed the juice is stored at cold temperatures for several days. The cool storage temperatures keep the juice from fermenting while the skins and seeds macerate in the liquid.

Extended Maceration

The process of extended maceration after the fermentation is used to create richer, more supple wines with greater aging ability and less bitter tannin. The process of extended maceration increases tannin but also causes tannin polymerization, a process which increases tannin molecule size. This is considered to be a good thing because small tannin molecules are noted to be more bitter-tasting than large tannin molecules.

This type of extended maceration happens after the wines are fermented. Wines can soak on their skins and seeds for anywhere from 3 to 100 days.

Each wine grape characteristic is extracted at a different rate. Seed tannin is generally less desired due to its bitter taste even though it gives wines greater age-ability.

(Source: Wine Folly)

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