Weekly wine defined: Must

Must, not exactly something you think of when getting ready to drink a glass of wine. In fact we wager to bet that your first reaction to the word is probably to think of the smell that lingers on an item stuffed at the back of a shelving unit in a garage or attic.

But when it comes to wine, must is something that touches every bottle.

Must is freshly pressed fruit juice, in the case of wine grape, that contains the skins, seeds and stems of the fruit. The solid portion of this mixture is referred to as pomace.

Bainbridge winemaker Charlie Merrill punches down the cap of his fermenting juice.

Must is what rises to the top of the vat after grapes have been crushed and is the first step of winemaking (after of course harvesting the grapes and crushing them, so actually maybe it’s the third step…). Some winemakers like to “punch down” the must when fermenting. This has the same effect that you would get when making a cup of tea. The more you dunk the bag, the more color and body you get.

It’s up to the winemaker to determine how long the must should remain in contact with the juice before it is racked. After separated from the juice, a small portion  of the must may be kept for use in cooking — because of its high sugar content it works as a sweetener.

The rest is usually returned to the earth where it is used as fertilizer.