The must: characteristics, production and use

Must is obtained from the crushing of grapes. It is 70-80% composed of substances dispersed in water: sugars, organic and inorganic acids, polyphenols, odorous substances, pectic and nitrogenous substances, minerals, vitamins, enzymes and microorganisms. Many of these, present initially, are found in the wine itself at the end of the production cycle. Others, however, take shape during the fermentation and aging phase of the wine. The concentration of sugar, on which the alcohol content of the wine depends, varies with the grapes used and the wine to be made.

By itself, the must is nonalcoholic and appears as a cloudy, dark liquid. The color is influenced by the grape variety used and the production process it undergoes. Must is the protagonist of the early stages of the harvest, when the grapes are picked and the berries undergo the first pressing. Characteristics and properties of must differ depending on the color, quality and degree of ripeness of the grapes. The main properties attributed to must include polyphenolic, antioxidant and antiviral properties (due to the presence of tannic acid and phenol). Several products are obtained from the liquid.

The must and its products

Must is the initial substance from which many alcoholic beverages (wine, beers and spirits) are made. It is obtained from the crushing and pressing of grapes. It is considered as a liquid that has not yet undergone fermentation, from which it is then possible to obtain wine, such as Recioto della Valpolicella Classico, or the unmistakable Amarone della Valpolicella.

Lacking fermentation, the product is non-alcoholic and can sometimes also be enjoyed as a cool, thirst-quenching non-alcoholic drink. Alternatively, it is used to produce the famous vincotto, which is popular in several traditional culinary recipes. It contains many important nutrients for the body and for this reason is considered beneficial for health. The amount of sugar contained in musts varies depending on several factors:

  • harvest period
  • soil
  • grape variety
  • climate
  • exposure to the sun

Generally, the percentage of sugars varies between 20% and 25%. It is the sugars that will determine, in later stages, the alcohol content of the beverage to be produced.

Among the many products made from this liquid are:

  1. Cooked Must or Saba
  2. Concentrate
  3. Fermented grape must
  4. Muted Must
  5. Rectified must (or rectified concentrate)


Il mosto

Cooked Must or Saba

Saba is obtained from the evaporation of water by cooking. The result of this process is a partially caramelized substance obtained at atmospheric pressure. It is produced over direct heat and can be enjoyed as an accompaniment to aged cheeses, or it can make a real thirst-quenching drink. In many regions of Italy it is still used to cook traditional delicacies. Also called cotto, Sapa or Saba, it is used in the production of cakes, pies, cookies and fillings. It is a very sweet substance.

Must concentrate

The concentrate is obtained by processing the mute. It is processed inside large industrial facilities through a low-pressure, low-temperature process. Color, aroma and flavor are similar to those of the starting blend. Since it does not acquire the typical baking flavor of Saba, the concentrate is used to correct the gradation of wine. Alternatively, the confectionery industry uses it as a sweetener. Finally, it is also used to produce the famous Balsamic Vinegar of Modena Igp.

Fermented grape must

In this case the product undergoes a partial fermentation process to produce wines with reduced alcohol content. The result is a sweet wine usually pleasing to very young palates.

Dumb Must – Mute Most

When carbon dioxide in high concentration (1000 to 1500 ppm) is added to the must, the fermentation process stops and muted must is created. The name comes from the absence of the fermentation murmur interrupted by the introduction of sulfur dioxide. From its yellowish color, it is impossible to consume the mute. The process only serves to ensure proper storage of the must.

Rectified must (or rectified concentrate)

Rectified is obtained by processing concentrate, when the sugar part is separated from the grape. The result is a colorless and tasteless product used for some wines where it is necessary to increase the alcohol content, or in food production as a natural sweetener.

Grape juice

A subcategory of must, grape juice is a nonalcoholic beverage. Obtained by extracting grapes without fermentation.

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