Free-run Juice

Definition - What does Free-run Juice mean?

Free-run juice is winemaking terminology referring to the juice that flows from freshly picked grapes during the destemming and crushing process, prior to the pressing process. When winemakers put the grapes into the winepress, the grapes are stacked on top of each other and the weight of the fruit causes the release of some juice.

Red wines made from free-run juice are rare; only a limited amount of free-run juice is produced during the winemaking process and thus winemakers who choose to sell it under a separate label can do so for a much higher price point. White wines are typically only made from free-run juice; those that are made from pressed juice only tend to be far too tannic and off-color.

French wine labels will indicate if a wine is made from free-run juice by including the statement "vin de goutte" on the label.

WineFrog explains Free-run Juice

The belief is that free-run juice is the best for making wine because it is pure, fresh and has clarity of flavor. However, "pressed" juice also provides benefits.

Pressed juice - which results from when the wine press is activated - creates juice that is lower in acidity, higher in potassium and pH, and more tannic. Tannins give wine more body, aroma and aging potential; but too many cause the wine to be astringent, bitter and, in the case of white wines, causes browning. Increased pH causes mouthfeel and balance issues in the final wines.

Free-run juice has an ideal balance of all the necessary characteristics for a well-balanced wine with good mouthfeel and clarity. For example, red wines made with free-run juice have more sweet fruit than their pressed counterparts.

Winemakers usually separate the free-run juice from the pressed juice so that they can:

  1. Blend the free-run juice with the pressed juice to reduce the tannin levels in a wine for a complete and balanced wine;
  2. Bottle the free-run juice separately and sell it under a different label and price point; or
  3. Discard or sell the pressed juice, focusing their efforts on developing the free-run juice
The most common blend ration for free-run to pressed is 9-1 - 9 parts free-run juice and 1 part pressed. The pressed juice adds color, tannins and complexity to the wine, while the free-run juice gives it all the other great characteristics (fruitiness, aroma, balance, etc).
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