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What does it mean when a wine pump is self-priming?

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Self-priming wine pumps can begin operation with a simple flip of a switch. Others, however, need liquid in the pump to start running.
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There are many types of pump that are promoted as "self priming."  The key question for customers to ask is, "What is the suction lift capability of the pump?"  Suction lift is the capability to pull liquid through an empty hose and into the pump---it is measured in feet. (A 22' dry suction lift capability is very good)  Typically, air diaphragm and flexible impeller pumps offer most suction lift with peristaltic pumps close behind.  Lobe and progressing cavity pumps have least capability in this area.
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