Red Winemaking

Appears in
Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

  • About

red winemaking, the production of wines with reddish to purple colours. The great majority of today’s red wines depend on crushing and destemming of the grape clusters as a first step in their production (but see also whole-bunch fermentation and carbonic maceration).

The mixture of skins, seeds, and occasionally some stem fragments, along with the juice, then goes into a fermentation vessel, where yeast converts sugars into alcohol. The natural anthocyanin pigments, which are contained in the skins of black grapes, along with flavour compounds, flavour precursors, and large amounts of phenolics (the latter originating from both the skins and the seeds) are extracted into the fermenting wine by the alcohol produced by yeast during fermentation and maceration. Without some maceration of juice and skins, wine made from dark-skinned grapes is merely pink (as described in rosé winemaking). Duration of this extraction process can be anything from a fast two- or three-day fermentation for an everyday wine to a week-long fermentation followed by a further one, two, or even three weeks’ maceration for a full-bodied red wine that is designed to age.