Winemaker’s Red Wine Secret: Extended Maceration

Winemakers are full of secrets. They collect little tricks of the trade that help them concoct exceptional wines the same way chef’s 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.

Find out how extended maceration affects red wines ranging from lush Pinot Noir and Syrah to assertive Nebbiolo and Cabernet Sauvignon.

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 Diagram 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 (post-fermentation) wine

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.

Winemakers Weigh In

Barolo Nebbiolo

Historically, Nebbiolo and the wines of Barolo experience long extended macerations (50+ days) in order to allow them to age for 30–40 years. Of course, the negative side effect was that the tannins from the seeds would be overwhelming and wines were nearly undrinkable upon release. To understand what Barolo producers are doing differently today, we asked the winemaker of Rivetto winery.

Enrico Rivetto’s comments have been edited for readability.

“The goal is more polyphenols, more complexity, more evolution, and more stability of the chemical components”

For the Barolos and in particular Briccolina Barolo, the wines undergo a 60-day maceration. The goal is more polyphenols, more complexity, more evolution, and more stability of the chemical components, but we loose a little bit of the color because the skins re-absorb the pigment like a sponge. What we do differently from the techniques of the past is that we take out the seeds (bitter tannins) after 10-15 days. Later, we take out the destroyed skins (which produce bad quality tannins) and the small herbaceous grape parts so the long skin contact is only with the best quality parts of the grape. It produces much smoother tannins, more stability, and more complexity but is still easy to drink early on.
Before the 70s everybody made Barolo with long skin macerations including all parts of the grape (good tannins, bad tannins, ripe tannins, and unripe tannins). Wines wouldn’t be ready to drink for 20-25 years.
Between the 80s and 2000s the trend of using French barriques, lots of enological products, and technology produced smoother, more approachable Barolo wines with more color, shorter maceration times, and higher temperature fermentations but they were less typical of the Barolo style.
Today, my technique for the future is to learn from the past and make these natural adjustments as I have explained earlier, using only the best part of the skins.

Enrico Rivetto, Wine Maker, Azienda Agricola Rivetto, Piedmont, Italy

Oregon Pinot Noir

Alex Fullerton, the winemaker at Fullerton Wines, sent us a bottle of Pinot Noir from Oregon that had undergone post-fermentation extended maceration for 100 days! Here’s what Alex had to say about the process:

“We will be doing even more of it in the future as we love the results!”

The EM (extended maceration) wines are often softer and plusher than wines that haven’t gone through EM. When you conduct EM you taste the wine on a daily basis and really get to know it. You watch as it extracts more tannin over the next few days and maybe even loses some fruit components, and you think to yourself, “why did I do this!?” At about 2 weeks into the EM you start to notice a major shift as the wine turns a corner and softens up… the end result is a round, smooth, plush, polished, and complete tannin profile with a smoother mouthfeel.
Alex Fullerton, Wine Maker, Fullerton Wines, Oregon

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Burger and Wine Pairings Done Right

Hamburgers are the headlining feature in American comfort food and wine has been collecting fans for thousands of years all over the globe – but can the two really stand side by side on a menu? Can a dainty glass of grape juice really edge out beer to sit beside a juicy burger? We think so. Some would argue that these two culinary classics are simply not in the same class: street food vs. sophistication. But if you believe that, you’re really not paying attention to how versatile these two products really are, so consider this:

  • a.) Wine is just spoiled grape juice.
  • b.) You can spend $36 for a burger (21 Club in New York) and it doesn’t even include cheese!

So, we thought it appropriate to put our wine pairing skills in action and come up with some great wine recommendations for 4 classic burgers recipes: plain, with cheddar, with mushrooms and swiss, and with barbecue bacon cheese.


The only problem is you’re going to be hungry and thirsty after reading this (at least we warned you).

Awesome Burger and Wine Pairings


Perfect Burger

You know the one, it’s the burger with lettuce tomato and onion that doesn’t need cheese in order to be a masterpiece in each and every bite. Subtle perfection is the name of the game and this classic burger recipe is the ultimate test of quality burger-manship.

Why it works: Traditionally, this burger calls for Coke or a Root Beer so, choosing wines with an element of bitter-sweet pays homage to the classic brown soda pairing. Interestingly enough, the wines listed above (as prepared) all have substantially less sugar than a can of coke.


21 Club Burger
I love this burger with an elegant, silky medium bodied Red Châteauneuf-du-Pape preferably with a bit of age. Medium bodied is important because it will enhance the meat flavor but not overpower it’s subtleties. I would look for one with medium, medium minus, integrated silky, sweet tannins even better if it has a hint of glycerol that would meld magically with the fat. A lot of CDPs have flavors of red cherries, raspberries, strawberries and I like a wine with a red fruit element for the tart and tang of the melted cheddar and also because I feel ripe blue fruit can sometimes compete with fatty meat flavors. And finally while some Rhône wines can finish with a bit of showy spicy, I would look for a CDP that has a nice earth and spice balance that rounds out the experience of the smoky char and subtle pepper of the meat and the airy, buttery sweetness of the brioche. Rosalina Pong, Sommelier at 21 Club


Classic Cheeseburger

A perfect burger (like the one described above) with the addition of a slice of cheddar cheese which adds tang and creaminess to the overall profile.

  • Crianza or Reserva Rioja
  • Chianti Classico or Montalcino Rosso
  • Montepulciano d’Abruzzo
  • Coonawarra Cabernet
  • South African Cabernet

Why it works: Cheeseburgers are often classically paired with sweetened ice tea and the reason iced tea works so well is that its tannin acts as a palate cleanser, cleaning up after the stickiness of cheese. The wines above also feature higher tannin. Additionally, they have more savory flavors (tomato, roasted pepper, black currant, dried leather) which will better compliment the cheddar cheese and ground beef combination. You could actually bump this pairing up a notch by adding a piece of roasted red pepper into your burger!


Mushroom Swiss Burger

This savory style burger delivers rich umami flavors of grilled mushrooms (usually sprinkled salt and pepper) and a slice of melted buttery, nutty swiss cheese.

  • Cool-climate Merlot including New York, New Zealand, Canada, and Switzerland
  • Right Bank Bordeaux These are the Merlot-dominant blends of Bordeaux… amazeballs.
  • Langhe Nebbiolo or Roero The Italian red that’s light in color but massive in taste.
  • Washington Merlot Loads of red fruit and ample acidity.


Barbecue Bacon Cheeseburger

For those of us thrill seekers, this burger is the equivalent to wingsuiting because of the intensity of flavor blasted into each bite (you can also die from overdoing it… but a lot slower). This would be the holy hand grenade of burgers.


When BBQ, Syrah
If BBQ, then grill. If grill, then smoky, earthy red that matches up well with the flavors in a BBQ/Bacon Cheeseburger. If smoky, earthy red that matches up well with the flavors in a BBQ/Bacon Cheeseburger, then Northern Rhone Syrah. If Northern Rhone Syrah, then Nirvana. It’s science…
The Northern Rhone Valley in France is Syrah’s birthplace. The expressions here are a lot more transparent than Syrah you may have had from other parts of the world: Cali, Australia, etc. What you find underneath generous dark fruit are spicy/savory notes, Provençal herbs, smoked meat (Hello, bacon). Yeah, those flavors are in wine. Love them. Brian McLintic, Viticole Wine Club


neighborhood-services-burger-dallas by kevin marple
Neighborhood Services on Lovers Lane in Dallas seems to know what’s up. Photo by Kevin Marple.

Are We Doing This Right?

In researching this article I became obsessed with the proper way to build a burger. I always thought the rule was “lettuce on bottom and meat on top.” It made sense, you are essentially championing the meat on the top and using the lettuce as a way to stop the meat and tomatoes from making the bottom bread soggy. Nobody likes soggy bottoms. Of course, when you look online for the answer, there are a bunch of pictures putting meat at the bottom of the stack.

What do you think? Meat on bottom, lettuce on top, or vice versa? Do we have any burger experts out there? Inquiring minds want to know! (Tell us in the comments section below.

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Understanding Napa Cabernet

By learning more about Napa’s great Cabernet wines, we can better understand what makes this varietal exceptional and learn to spot Napa Valley and California wines with great promise and potential.

It all started with a little too much ambition…

Had it not been for the overambitious visions of just a few individuals, Napa Valley might have never become one of the most important wine regions in the world. When Napa Valley was only just getting started, America’s passion for Bordeaux wines was feverishly high, so much so that even the first lady at the time, Jackie O., was known to sip Château Haut-Brion Blanc in the White House. Napa’s vintners no doubt observed Bordeaux’s success and looked to the region for inspiration.


Napa Valley Sign World Famous Napa
In June 1950 the Napa Valley Vintners Association dedicated the now world-famous Napa Valley sign to the region. Photo Napa Valley Vintners.


Since Napa Valley winemakers couldn’t simply make a wine with the Bordeaux name on the label, they did the next best thing: they imported Bordeaux grapes (including Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot) and learned French winemaking techniques. You have to remember, that back then, most California wines were sold in jugs (or worse, tanks!) and aged in large redwood vats–a very different scene than the production process that takes place today.


Stag’s Leap 1973 was the leading Napa Cabernet in the 1976 Judgement of Paris and Groth 1985 was the first 100-point wine.


It wasn’t until the 1970s and 1980s that Napa Valley showed the world they meant business with Cabernet Sauvignon. In 1976, a private wine competition in Paris judged by several top French trades compared current releases of Bordeaux and Napa wines (often thought to be inferior to their European counterparts). Later dubbed as the “Judgement of Paris,” the tasting results showed that American Cabernet wines could stand toe-to-toe with the most important Bordeaux wines of the time. Then, a decade later, the well-known Bordeaux wine critic, Robert Parker, awarded the 1985 Groth Cabernet Sauvignon a perfect 100-point score.


Understanding Napa Cabernet

There are essentially 7 aspects to consider when assessing quality in Cabernet Sauvignon.

When a wine critic assesses Napa Cabernet Sauvignon there are several features and characteristics they look for:

Fruit Quality
The best Napa Cabernet wines consistently exhibit flavors of black currant, ripe (not baked) plum, subtle licorice, black cherry, raspberry, as well as blueberry and/or blackberry. All of these tasting notes associated with Cabernet indicate the grapes were perfectly ripe when picked.
Depth of Flavor
Having depth means that wines reveal layers of flavors that evolve over the duration of the tasting experience, which can sometimes be more than a minute long. For example, flavors may start out as fruity and then become more minerally (pencil lead or “dusty”) or floral (violets or sage) and then finish with oak-aged notes (such as cedar, mocha, espresso and tobacco) and textured with tannin.
Freshness (Acidity)
Floral notes and terms like “elegance” or “grace” indicate that the wine has good acidity–an age-worthy trait.
Structure (Tannin)
Tannins can range from fine-grained to firm, but what’s important is that they are well-integrated, meaning they match the intensity of the other components in the wine (fruit flavors, acidity, and alcohol).
The use of oak is always present in the best Napa Cabernet wines, the question isn’t how much oak is used specifically (because it varies), but rather how that oak comes across in the taste. When used well, oak acts like seasoning that brings out the other flavors in the wine.
Overall Balance
The highest-quality wines all have intense flavor (and a high level of color extraction) but all the components in the wine are perfectly balanced with one another.
While the late 1990s and early 2000s had several top Napa Cabernets with estimated aging periods of just 10-12 years, the more modern wines appear to age longer, starting at 15 or more years.


Here’s an Example of a Critical Review

2008 Araujo Cabernet Sauvignon from Eisele Vineyard in Oakville AVA, Napa Valley
Dense, rich, and enormously concentrated, mixing power with finesse. Pure, ripe, riveting aromas of blackberry, blueberry, currant, sage, cedar, espresso, and mocha lead to a full-bodied palate, firming beautifully on the finish, where the flavors glide along and gain traction. Drink now through 2028. James Laube, Wine Spectator

The morning fog layer plays a crucial role in how the grapes ripen in different spots in Napa Valley. Photo by Gunther Hagleitner.


What Makes Napa Valley Ideal for Cabernet Sauvignon?

For one, you’ve got to have the right climate…

When it comes to producing great wine, it starts with growing great grapes. In the case of Cabernet Sauvignon vines, they have been shown to be best suited for a sunny, warm (and not too hot) climate so that the grapes ripen slowly. While many places in California are quite hot indeed (and increasingly so), Napa Valley’s location on the San Pablo Bay causes an induction effect at night that delivers morning cloud cover. The morning fog slows certain aspects of ripening. Additionally, the AVAs within Napa Valley that are above the clouds (Howell Mountain, Atlas Peak, etc.) have higher elevation to use to their advantage. Higher temperature shifts between night and day in the hills slow certain aspects of ripening (e.g. by maintaining acidity).

Expect to spend: These days it’s hard to spend less than $50 for a good bottle of Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.

The quality of Napa’s soils…

There are many different soil types that are well-suited for Cabernet Sauvignon and ultimately what’s important is good drainage and not too much soil fertility. The low fertility puts the vines in a state of stress earlier in the growing season, which shifts the vine’s focus from growing leaves to ripening grapes. What makes Napa Valley special (especially as a New World region) is a prevalence of volcanic soils which unexplainably add an earthy, “dusty” taste to Napa’s best wines. Since earthiness and minerality are not common in New World wine regions, this “dustiness” adds complexity to Napa wines.

Where there’s great Cabernet, there’s great Merlot: If you’re a Cabernet fanatic, Napa Valley’s Merlot offers incredible density that’s on par with other Cabernet wines. Surprisingly, it’s shockingly affordable compared to the cost of an average bottle of Napa Cabernet.

The rusty red soils on the Continuum estate vineyards on Pritchard Hill (the un-AVA of Napa). Photo by Madeline.


Where to Find the Best Cabernet Sauvignon Wines in Napa:

There really isn’t a single best spot in Napa for Cabernet Sauvignon, because it’s a matter of taste. That said, we’ve observed two distinct styles of Napa Cab based on where they grow. Each have their own style and unique features so it’s ultimately up to you to decide.

Napa Valley Floor Wines

Lush and refined…

Flavors: Blueberry, Ripe Plum, Black Cherry, Licorice, Mocha, and Violet (or mint). Usually, well-rounded with more refined flavor profiles along with fine integrated tannins.

Features: If you’re into lush, bold, and opulent Cabernet wines with a dominance of fruit (vs. other) flavors then the Napa Valley AVAs are likely to make you very happy. These wines show marvelously in their first decade and then, if you’re lucky, hit another sweet spot at around 15 or so years of age. If you follow ratings, the valley Cabs are generally well-loved by the critics too and garner the highest ratings.


Napa Hillside Wines

Dusty and bold…

Flavors: Black Currant, Black Cherry, Wild Berry, Spicebox, Anise, Espresso, Cedar, and Sage. Wines have more rustic flavor profiles with heightened minerality and earthiness, supported by firm tannins.

Features: If you’re into bold, smoky, and mineral driven Cabernet wines with good structure (AKA tannins) then the hillside AVAs of Napa are likely to make you very happy. The more variable temperatures on the hills produce smaller berries which in turn add additional color and tannin to the wines. These wines generally take longer to come around due to the higher tannin (maybe 5–10 years) but when they do, they become more lithe and supple.

Napa Valley Wine Map by Wine Folly copyright 2017
A map of Napa Valley’s wine regions including roads, cities, and landscape features. See more Wine Folly maps.

Famous Vineyards of Napa organized by AVA

If you’re interested in knowing more, here is a list of some of the most prominent vineyards of Napa. You’ll see a prevalence in Oakville, but due to climate change, we’ll expect to see some up-and-coming regions (like Coombsville and Wild Horse Valley) produce the future of quality in Napa.


Farella Vineyard, Coombsville, (producers: Di Costanzo, Farella Vineyard, Realm Cellars, Agharta)
Kenzo Estate Vineyards, Coombsville / Wild Horse Valley (producers: Kenzo Estate)

Atlas Peak

Stagecoach Vineyard (producers: Arrow & Branch, Arkenstone, Caine, Miner, Chappellet, Paul Hobbs, MacLaren)
Pahlmeyer Estate Vineyard (Atlas Peak area) (producers: Pahlmeyer)


Beckstoffer To Kalon (producers: Schrader, etc)
Harlan Estate (producers: Harlan)
Screaming Eagle (producers: Screaming Eagle)
Showket (producers: Peter Michael, Showket, Bevan )
Heitz Martha’s Vineyard Oakville (producers: Heitz)
Beckstoffer Missouri-Hopper (producers: Alpha Omega, Bacio Divino, Bure Family, Morlet, Hess Collection, Venge Family)
Dalla Valle (Eastern side of Oakville) (producers: Dalla Valle)


Staglin Vineyards (producers: Staglin Family Vineyard)
Beckstoffer Georges III (producers: Bell Cellars, Bryter Estates, Hunnicutt, Keating, Schrader)

Stag’s Leap District

Fay Vineyard (producers: Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars)

Saint Helena

Spottswoode (producers: Spottswoode)
Capella S (producers: Abreu)
Madrona Ranch (producers: Abreu)
Beckstoffer Dr. Crane Vineyards (producers: Alpha Omega, Realm, B. Cellars, Myriad, Arrow & Branch)
Chappellet (in Prichard Hill Area) (producers: Chappellet)
Bryant Family (in Prichard Hill Area) (producers: Bryant Family)


Eisele Vineyard (producers: Araujo)

Howell Mountain

Thorevilos Vineyards Between Saint Helena and Howell Mountain (producers: Abreu)
Herb Lamb Vineyards Between Saint Helena and Howell Mountain (producers: Colgin, Herb Lamb, Turley, Trujillo)
Beatty Ranch Vineyards (producers: Vie Winery, Far Niente, Howell Mountain Vineyards)

Spring Mountain District

Cain Vineyard (producers: Cain Five)

Diamond Mountain District

Diamond Creek Volcanic Hill (producers: Diamond Creek)

Mustard grows in the vineyards in February. Photo by Tucker Hammerstrom.

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