This year I decided to play around with some ‘extended skin maceration’ with a batch of our Sagrantino.
Extended skin maceration is winemaker speak for leaving the wine on the skins of the grapes for a longer period of time than ‘normal’. Normal time on skins is usually the period for which the fermentation occurs, i.e. until all of the sugar in the grapes is fermented by the yeast and turned
into alcohol. Remembering that all of the colour and flavour in red grapes is contained in the skins, most of this is extracted during a normal fermentation of around 5-7 days.
Seeing Sagrantino has its home in Montefalco, Umbria, Italy, I looked to what producers are doing over there. Extended macerations are routinely practiced in Montefalco. Sagrantino is one of the most tannic varieties known, tannins being the drying feeling that you get in your mouth, just like that after you have a cup of strong tea.
What extended maceration does, is makes the tannins that are extracted rounder and richer and not as harsh. Chemically, this is because the tannin molecules are polymerising but this is far to nerdy to get into!
What I found is that the wine has taken on a 70% cocoa chocolate type of tannin structure: intense, but with underlying creaminess. It has been a very exciting process to watch, the wine has changed greatly over the 57 days that it has been on skins.
Some days, the wine didn’t look fabulous, and I doubted the benefits of extended maceration. But, I had been reliably informed that you have to push through, hold your ground and wait until the wine enters a phase where it softens and gives you a lot more than what you started with. So I went to Bali and didn’t look at it for a week!
Really glad that I stuck it out- and must give thanks to the team at Yangarra for letting me extend their end of vintage cleaning program significantly! Look forward to seeing how the wine will develop before it gets into bottle in a few years. Watch this space…