Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, but you can call me Vinny. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the fine points of etiquette to the science of winemaking. And don't worry, I'm no wine snob—you can also ask me those "dumb questions" you're too embarrased to ask your wine geek friends! I hope you find my answers educational, empowering and even amusing. And don't forget to check out my most asked questions and my full archives for all my Q&A classics.
Dear Dr. Vinny,
Does extended maceration add more actual flavor to wine or is it used mostly for tannin and color?
—Kristi, Salt Lake City
Maceration is the process during the fermentation of red wine when the grape skins and solids are being leached of color, tannins and aromas. Think of all that stuff like a tea bag steeping. Typically, when fermentation is done, the wine is pressed off (or “free run” off) of those solids. But if you wanted to continue to leave your “tea bag” of grape solids in there, that’s called extended maceration.
Most winemakers who employ extended maceration will do so not only to extract additional color, but also for flavor and to improve a wine’s texture. Not every winemaker is a fan of extended maceration; in fact, some winemakers prefer to press the wine even before the fermentation is complete. I’ve had wines where extended maceration made them more complex and delicious. But I’ve also had examples where it leads to wines that were overly tannic, astringent or harsh.