Maceration Tips and Techniques

“Maceration,” says the Concise Oxford Dictionary, is to “soften by soaking.” In red winemaking it is so much more! Indeed, maceration may be viewed as the very essence of what distinguishes the making of red wine from that of white wine. With very few minor exceptions, all grapes have colorless pulp. To achieve the color, flavors, aromas and tannic structure for which red wines are known, the winemaker must extract critical component from their dark skins: maceration. When home winemakers make red wine, it often seems like the goal is to extract as much of everything as possible out of the skins. That isn’t really how it goes, though. While we may think we never get too much color, it is entirely possible to extract too much tannin. The key is to get just the right amount of all the good things and not too much of the bad things when macerating grapes on the way to wine. While white grapes are sometimes allowed a bit of skin contact time, a maceration roughly equivalent to a “cold soak” for reds,