This is part of a series called Wine Words, a glossary in the works that breaks down the barrier between those in the wine know and those who have no idea what the hell everyone's talking about. A new word posts once a week, covering everything from a grape name or region, to a winemaking or tasting term.
Destemmed (n.) Winemaking Term
I'm labeling this one a noun, as in, the state of having been destemmed. It's pretty much what it sounds like: grapes without their stems. Destemming typically happens after the grapes are crushed and in some cases, usually with red wines, a few or all of the stems are left intact during fermentation. Winemakers destemm because the stems contain tannins and other elements that can impart undesirable "green" - underripe - flavors and textures. You know how a not-quite-ripe banana is hard to peel? But you're starving and it's the only damn thing in the house to eat, so you force your way in, and end up with a too-firm fruit that kinda dries out your mouth.
Stems aren't always a negative. Some winemakers leave them through fermentation to add additional structure by way of tannin. The stems can also slow the fermentation process as they provide a sort of drainage system that allows for more oxygen to come in contact with the fermenting grape must. Longer, slower, cooler fermentations develop more nuanced, extracted flavors. Think hog, low and slow.
An example of how the two methods can affect a resulting wine would be the Equinoxe Crozes-Hermitage made by Maxime Graillot and Maxime's father, Alain Graillot's Crozes-Hermitage. The grapes come from essentially the same organically farmed plot on their Northern Rhône estate. Alain incorporates the stems, producing a seriously structured red for laying down. Maxime, however, 100% destemms, and his wine is juicy and soft and far more approachable in its youth.