Ask Elizabeth: What is Must? Why cold soak grapes?

This month, our winemaker describes why we cold soak our Pinot Noir grapes and why Must is a must for making great wine.

Dear Elizabeth:

What is Must and why is it important for making wine?

David N.

Atlanta, GA

Hi David,

Must is composed of freshly destemmed and/or crushed red grapes including the juice, skins and seeds. The term comes from the Latin vinum mustum, which translates to “young wine.”  The must stage is the first and one of most important steps in the wine making process.

Grape Must is punched down to maintain contact with the juices.

It is during this time that the juice has an opportunity to come in contact with the grape skins to begin building the color and structure of the wine. After the wine has completed cold soak (see below) and fermentation, the free run wine is drained from the tank using gravity. The remaining wine is gently extracted using a basket press leaving behind the pomace consisting of just the skins and seeds.




Dear Elizabeth:

We just returned from a trip to Sonoma County tasting your amazing pinots. At the tasting room, the staff mentioned that pinots are “cold soaked.” Can you describe what that is? Why is it good for wine?

Sandra C.

Dallas, TX

Hi Sandra:

Cold soaking or Cold Maceration is a technique where freshly picked and de-stemmed Pinot Noir berries and juice are kept in a tank at low temperatures (typically about 48 degrees Fahrenheit) for 3-5 days. During the cold soak, the juice and grape skins do not begin fermentation.

We feel that cold soaking yields many benefits for Pinot Noir:

  • It extracts the softer, more supple tannins to help produce that silky “mouth-feel”
  • It often produces wines of deeper , richer color.
  • It helps to emphasize lush fruit notes (like dark cherry and plum) in the wine.

As the Pinot Grape is notoriously challenging when it comes to extracting and preserving  these qualities, we feel taking the extra time needed to perform a cold soak ensures we are pulling the best characteristics possible out of each and every grape that enters our winery.




Each month, La Crema Winemaker Elizabeth Grant-Douglas answers questions from our Facebook Fans.


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