It is particularly relevant when making red wines. The process is not unlike making tea - i.e. the longer and the more aggressively the extraction process, the bigger, stronger and more robust the wine. Winemakers use various extraction methods, including cold maceration before fermentation for extra color extraction, pumping over and punching down techniques performed during fermentation to make sure the juice and the skins are in constant contact, and extended maceration on the skins post-fermentation to extract even more tannin and flavor compounds. However, bigger is not always better. Over-extraction is increasingly a common fault in some wines, when the wines are certainly big and powerful, but can be heavy, lacking balance, grace and drinkability. The key is to get it just right. Not too light or not too heavy - but perfectly balanced. While the appropriate amount of extraction depends greatly on the quality and style of wine being made, it also depends on the grape variety. For example take Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir. Both make red wine but Cabernet Sauvignon can handle a lot more extraction and can remain balanced as a big, full-bodied, powerful wine. In contrast Pinot Noir cannot. Pinot Noir is a more delicate grape, requiring finesse and elegance in its best wines. Overly extracted Pinot is burly, ungainly and far from charming. Mary Gorman-McAdams, MW (Master of Wine), is a New York based wine educator, freelance writer and consultant.
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