What Is Racking Wine

Racking is an essential step in the winemaking process that helps to maintain the quality and flavor of the wine. It involves transferring the wine from one vessel to another, typically a barrel, in order to separate it from the sediment and debris known as gross lees.

Gross lees primarily consist of dead cells and other particles that have settled in the wine during the fermentation process. These particles can contribute to off-flavors and spoil the overall taste of the wine if not removed. Racking helps to eliminate these unwanted elements and promote the clarity and purity of the wine.

The first racking usually takes place shortly after the pressing of the grapes. For red wines, this is typically after the primary fermentation has completed. After allowing the wine to settle for a day or two, it is then carefully siphoned or transferred into a clean vessel, leaving behind the layer of gross lees at the bottom.

By racking the wine, winemakers are able to separate it from the sediments and unwanted materials that can negatively impact its quality. This process also helps to halt the fermentation, as most of the active yeast cells are left behind in the gross lees. This is important as it prevents further fermentation and allows the winemaker to have better control over the final product.

Racking can be done multiple times throughout the winemaking process, depending on the specific needs of the wine. Each time the wine is racked, it becomes clearer and more refined, as more impurities are removed. This can result in a smoother and more enjoyable drinking experience.

It is important to note that racking should be done carefully and with attention to hygiene. Clean and sanitized equipment should be used to avoid introducing any contaminants into the wine. Additionally, it is recommended to minimize exposure to oxygen during the racking process, as excessive oxygenation can negatively affect the flavor and aroma of the wine.

Racking wine is a crucial step in winemaking that helps to remove sediment and debris, improving the quality and taste of the final product. By separating the wine from the gross lees, winemakers are able to ensure a cleaner and more refined wine. Regular racking throughout the winemaking process can lead to a smoother and more enjoyable drinking experience.

Is Racking Wine Necessary?

Racking wine is necessary in the winemaking process to prevent off flavors and improve the overall quality of the wine. Here are some key points to consider:

1. Purpose: Racking refers to transferring wine from one vessel to another, typically from a fermentation vessel to a clean container. The main purpose is to separate the clear wine from the sediment, known as gross lees, that settles at the bottom of the vessel.

2. Removal of Sediment: The gross lees consist of dead yeast cells, grape pulp, skins, and other solid particles that were left behind during fermentation. These particles can contribute to off flavors if left in contact with the wine for an extended period. Racking helps to remove the sediment, ensuring a cleaner and more stable wine.

3. Clarification: By separating the wine from the sediment, racking aids in wine clarification. This process allows any remaining suspended solids to settle, leading to a clearer and visually appealing wine.

4. Oxygen Exposure: Racking also provides an opportunity for controlled oxygen exposure. While excessive exposure to oxygen can be detrimental to wine, a small amount can help in the development of desirable flavors and aromas. Racking allows winemakers to carefully manage this oxygen contact during the aging process.

5. Flavor Development: The removal of gross lees through racking helps to prevent the development of off flavors caused by autolysis, which is the breakdown of yeast cells. Autolysis can produce unpleasant aromas and flavors such as rubber or rotten egg-like notes. Racking minimizes the risk of these undesirable characteristics.

6. Maturation: Racking can aid in the maturation and aging of wine by allowing it to separate from the sediment and continue its development in a clean environment. This can result in improved flavor integration, complexity, and overall quality.

Racking wine is a necessary step in winemaking to remove sediment, clarify the wine, manage oxygen exposure, prevent off flavors, and promote maturation. It contributes to the overall quality and stability of the final product.

what is racking wine

When Should I Start Racking Wine?

Racking wine is an important step in the winemaking process, as it helps to clarify the wine and remove any sediment or impurities. The first racking should typically occur shortly after pressing the wine.

For red wines, this will usually be after the primary fermentation is complete. It is important to let the wine settle out for one or two days after pressing before racking. During this time, the heavier particles will settle to the bottom of the container, forming a thick layer known as the gross lees.

Once the settling period is complete, you can proceed with racking the wine. This involves carefully siphoning or transferring the clear wine from the container, leaving behind the sediment at the bottom. This can be done using a racking cane or a siphoning tube.

It is important to note that the timing of racking may vary depending on the specific circumstances of your winemaking process. Factors such as the type of wine, fermentation progress, and desired clarity can all influence when to start racking.

In general, however, starting the first racking shortly after pressing and allowing for a settling period of one to two days is a good guideline to follow. This will help ensure that your wine is properly clarified and ready for further aging or additional rackings, if necessary.

To summarize, the first racking should occur shortly after pressing the wine, typically after the primary fermentation for red wines. Allow the wine to settle for one to two days, then carefully rack off the thick layer of gross lees to clarify the wine.


Racking wine is an essential step in the winemaking process that involves removing the wine from its original vessel and transferring it to another vessel, typically a barrel. This process serves multiple purposes. Firstly, it helps to separate the wine from the gross lees, which are primarily composed of dead yeast cells and other particles from the grapes. By removing these lees, winemakers can prevent the development of off flavors in the wine. Secondly, racking allows for the removal of any remaining debris, such as stems, skins, and seeds, which can also contribute to undesirable flavors. Lastly, racking helps to halt the fermentation process, allowing winemakers to have better control over the final product. racking wine is a crucial step that ensures the clarity, purity, and quality of the finished wine.

Photo of author

Thomas Ashford

Thomas Ashford is a highly educated brewer with years of experience in the industry. He has a Bachelor Degree in Chemistry and a Master Degree in Brewing Science. He is also BJCP Certified Beer Judge. Tom has worked hard to become one of the most experienced brewers in the industry. He has experience monitoring brewhouse and cellaring operations, coordinating brewhouse projects, and optimizing brewery operations for maximum efficiency. He is also familiar mixology and an experienced sommelier. Tom is an expert organizer of beer festivals, wine tastings, and brewery tours.