Wine Words Demystified: Free-Run Juice

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!  Since harvest is in full effect here in Northern California, I’ll be featuring harvest related terms the next several weeks!

This week’s word is Free-Run Juice..

According to Karen MacNeil‘s The Wine Bible:

The juice that runs – freely – simply as the result of the weight  of the grapes, before any mechanical pressure is applied in a PRESS

Free run juice is sometimes referred to as “noble juice”, or the French refer to it as “vin de goutte” .  It is considered to be the most delicate, highest quality juice because it has lower levels of phenols than the juice produced when pressure is applied to the fermented grapes. Phenols are found in the skins and seeds of grapes. They are what give red wine its color, and tannins.

Free-run juice from grapes before pressing
Free-run juice from grapes before pressing. Image courtesy of

The process of separating the solids (skins, pulp, and seeds) from the fermented juice is a continuum.  Some winemakers make special wine from just the free-run juice.  However, the resulting wine will be fruity and sweeter than wines that use a combination of free-run and press juice. Press juice is darker, more tannic, gives the finished wine more structure and complexity. So deciding whether or not to use solely free-run juice, or a combination of free-run juice and press juice is one of the myriad of decisions winemakers must make.  Additionally, winemakers have to be cautious because if the solids are pressed too much the resulting juice take on bitter or harsh notes.

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  1. myweeklywine says:

    Great article – really useful info, thanks!

    1. Martin D. Redmond says:

      Thanks Alison!

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