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What Is Free-Run Juice?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 16, 2024
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Free-run juice is juice produced that flows freely from the skin of grapes before they are pressed. The natural weight of the grapes, when stacked on each other, tends to result in the release of some juice. Because it is not pressed with a presser, the juice contains much fewer tannins, and is thus less bitter. It’s sometimes called "the noble juice," and is more expensive because there is less of it, and it is considered higher in quality.

You may be able to buy free-run juice in natural foods stores, or you may have to order it on the Internet. It is very difficult to get, unless you are purchasing fermented juice in the form of wine. Winemakers may make a special or “select” wine from free-run juice. These are often some of the most highly priced of wines you will find, and normally, the red wines have a sweet fruity quality that is unlike standard red wines made from pressed grapes.

The French winemakers generally specify the types of wine made from noble juice. They are called vin de goutte. Wine made from pressed grapes is called vin de presse. Not all wines are specifically one or the other. Free-run juice and pressed juice may be combined, with the noble juice allowing for a reduction in tannins in the wine that are contained in the pressed juice.

Winemakers do try to eliminate some of the tannin, a natural protein occurring in the skins and seeds of grapes that is highly acidic. This may not always be beneficial. Though there are a few people who may be allergic to tannins, it is suggested that these acidic proteins may actually be beneficial to heart health. The “glass of red wine a day” prescription that doctors are now giving to some patients suggests that wine made from free-run juice may not be the best choice. In essence you need the tannins in order to get the cardiovascular benefits.

Still, too much tannin in wine or juice will cause it to taste very bitter. Thus most wine contains at least some free-run juice, and most juice does also. Pressing grapes to obtain juice is still more economically sound, since it yields much greater quantity of juice than that obtained by stacking grapes on top of each other, or macerating them, allowing them to soak in sugar or acids to suck juice from the fruit.

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Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen , Writer
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a DelightedCooking contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.

Discussion Comments

By ysmina — On Aug 28, 2011

@burcinc-- Actually, it's exactly the opposite. Regular pressed juice and wine will be a darker color than free-run because pressed juice and wine is made by pressing the grape pulps and skins. These contain a lot more color so this juice ends up being a darker red color.

So free-run wine will be a lighter color than regular wine. It is true that free-run juice is a bit muddy but that is usually taken care of before reaching the consumer since it goes through a bottling process. I have tried lots of free-run wines, but never one that was labeled "organic," so I'm not too sure if their processing and bottling is a bit different.

Free-run juice and wine is always a lighter color though.

By fify — On Aug 27, 2011

I think in the past there might have been a greater difference between free-run juice and pressed juice. My uncle has vineyards and he makes his own juice and wine. I have seen how wine is made in his vineyard. Both free-run and pressed juice are actually treated the same way in the first couple of steps and that's why I don't think they are too different.

For both, grapes are crushed and fermented. After fermentation if the juice is removed, it's called free-run. If whatever is left of the grape is pressed to extract more juice from them, it is called pressed juice.

I like to think that free-run is the once processed and higher quality and the pressed one as the double processed lower quality juice.

After this stage though, they are again treated the same way. It's either bottled as free-run or pressed juice or left to mature into wine. Maybe in the past, the grapes were stacked to get free-run juice, but now both go through an initial crushing.

By burcinc — On Aug 26, 2011

I was able to try an organic free-run wine at a wine tasting event last week. It really was one of the best wines I have had, it was sweet and full of flavor. It also appeared to be a little bit muddier or darker than regular wine, or maybe it was just this particular wine, I don't know.

I might have enjoyed it because I've always had an inclination towards sweeter wines. It's a shame that I didn't discover wines made from free-run juice until now. If what the article says is true though, most of the wines I've had probably had a substantial amount of free-run juice in it since I usually select sweeter wines.

Tricia Christensen

Tricia Christensen


With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a DelightedCooking contributor, Tricia...
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