Wine Words Demystified: Cap

You know the deal; the more some folks learn about a topic, the more shortcuts/slang/acronyms/initials/technical jargon can be tossed around.  I’m here to help you understand those sometimes mysterious words and phrases, thus – Wine Words Demystified!

This week’s word is Cap…

According to Karen MacNeil‘s The Wine Bible:

The crusty layer, up to two feet or more deep, of grape skins, pulp, stems, and seeds that rises and floats to the top of the juice during a red wine’s FERMENTATION.  The cap mus be kept in contact with the juice by one of several methods…Only if the cap is thoroughly in  contact with the ALCOHOL in the fermenting juice can COLOR, AROMAS, flavor and TANNINS be extracted

A cap is created when grape skins, pulp, etc. are  forced by rising carbon dioxide gas to the top of the fermentation vessel during fermentation.  Especially during the making of red wine, contact between juice and skins allows the wine to develop its rich color, aromas, flavors and enhances its tannin complexity.

Here’s a short vid of a wine cap…

There are two generally accepted methods for keeping the cap in contact with the juice during fermentation – “pumping over” and  “punching down’.

Here’s a short clip of  what the “pumping over” process looks like…

Here’s a short clip of  what the “punching down” process looks like…

A third more modern and efficient method of keeping the cap in contact with the juice during maceration is called the ” pneumatage process” (click here for a video), in which compressed air or gas is sequentially injected into the juice.


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