What is Cold Maceration?

Linda Chesterfield

10/21/2016
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Before diving into Cold Maceration, what is regular Maceration in the winemaking process?

In winemaking terms, the process of maceration is the stage in which the grape skins are left in contact with the liquid juices of the grape. Extraction of color and flavor from the wine skins is the reason for holding the components together for periods of time. Most red grape varietals have greenish-white juice, so in order to give red wine its beautiful color, winemakers keep the skins and juice in contact for a period of days. Typically exposed to heat and no oxygen, not only does maceration occur, but the fermentation process is also begun. Fermentation is the period where the plant materials and wild yeast convert sugar into alcohol. As fermentation slows, maceration continues its science of extracting color, tannins and aroma out of the skins and adding them to the liquid wine.

How does Cold Maceration differ from regular Maceration?

Cold maceration is the same process but consists of refrigerating the grape skins and juices. This cold soak pulls out brighter fruit and darker color than regular maceration. This process can take longer than regular maceration and can be more labor intensive. A ‘cap’ develops in the tank as the skins and other materials float to the surface. Since this cap is at the top, not much juice is being exposed to the solids. “Punching down the cap” can be done multiple times throughout the fermentation process. This can be simply done by pushing the solids down into the juice by hand or “pumping over” with a hose that pulls juice from the bottom of the tank and then spraying it over the top of the cap. Either way, the winemaker is the one to make the decision of when enough color, tannins and aroma have been extracted.

Choosing which winemaking process is used during winemaking is up to the winemaker themselves and will vary widely between wineries and winemakers. Join one of our 6 wine of the month clubs and you'll get to try a wide variety of wine styles, made using many types of winemaking techniques. Cheers!