The Phenol Phenomenon

A saturated, dark-ruby colored, full-bodied wine with a velvety texture and round mouthfeel, oodles of blackberry aromas and oak flavor overtones with just a hint of spiciness, all with a persistent, memorable finish. The young, yet soft and elegant tannins make this wine approachable now but it will improve with time and can last another seven to ten years.” Wow! What a wine! This was the description from a newspaper columnist of a wine he had tasted at a winemaker-sponsored event. When interviewed by the columnist, the medal-winning winemaker spoke of “gentle phenolic extraction to retain all of the subtle flavors without extracting harsh tannins.” He went on to assert that punching the cap produced more delicate and balanced wines than pumping over because no harsh tannins are extracted. What are phenolics? What is phenolic extraction? How is it affected by cap management techniques such as punching or pump-over? How does phenolic extraction relate — and translate — to such wine descriptors? What does this all mean? Wine is a very complex beverage containing countless complex compounds. One of the