If you’re a wine enthusiast and love your glass of vino, you must’ve had some curiosity about winemaking, at some point in your life.
Have you ever wondered how wine is made? Is it a complicated process or simple?
These are some questions that have inevitably popped up in your mind.
Winemaking is a process that involves various steps like sorting, cleaning, and fermenting. It’s a meticulous process that’s time-consuming. To give you all the knowledge about how wine is produced, we’ve compiled a step-by-step guide on winemaking – from the vineyards to your glass. Read further to feed your curiosity!
Step By-Step Guide To Wine Making
The journey of winemaking starts with grape harvesting as many winemakers believe that a bad wine can be made from good grapes, but a good wine can never be made from bad grapes. Hence, the importance of picking quality grapes is prime. The timing of grape picking is equally essential, as that determines the flavor, sugar, and acidity of the wine. For example, grapes that are slightly less ripe are picked for acidic wines like sparkling wines, and late-harvest grapes are used for sweet wines like dessert wines.
Grapes are harvested either by hand or through machines. The hand-picking process is difficult and tedious as compared to harvesting grapes with machines, which is quicker.
Once the grapes are harvested, they are carried to the winery’s sorting table. Grapes are never washed as washing can interfere with its flavor. Unripe grapes, debris, leaves, stems, or spoiled grapes are removed in the sorting process. Some grapes with lighter skin are fermented with stems to add more tannins, for example, most of the Pinot Noir from the Burgundy region is made by the whole bunch fermentation process.
For white wines, the pressing of grapes is done before fermentation. The grapes are pressed through a machine that removes all the seeds, grape skin, and flesh and then fermented.
Into the Fermentation Vessel
Fermentation is a process that converts the sugars in the grapes to alcohol; the must starts fermenting within six to twelve hours once the yeast is added to it. The grape must then be transferred to a fermentation vessel.
There are various types of fermentation vessels ranging from oak, stainless steel to concrete. Each fermentation vessel has different traits and is used for various purposes. For example, oak barrels are used to give a smooth texture to the wine, while stainless steel vessels add freshness to the wine. Many winemakers today are experimenting with concrete fermentation barrels for flavors and texture that are closer to the grape’s character.
The Fermentation Process
Due to the presence of natural yeasts, most grapes start fermenting naturally within six to twelve hours, once they are poured in the vessel. Mostly cultured yeast is added for fermentation. Added yeast helps the winemakers to control the process better. The skin of the grapes helps the yeast in adding more tannin and color to the wine. This is why, for red wines, the grape skin is not separated from the juice.
White wines are fermented at a lower temperature as compared to red wines, to help preserve the delicate flavors. The carbon dioxide released during the fermentation process makes the skin and seeds of the grapes come to the surface. To overcome this, winemakers may use the method punch down, wherein the skin and seeds are pushed into the juice below. They may use another method, the pumping over process, where the juice is gently poured over the seeds and skin.
Maturing the Wine
Once the wine is fermented, it’s either moved to barrels, bottles or tanks, depending on when it has to be released. Most of the best wines go through the process of aging in oak barrels before bottling. In the oak barrels, most red wines go through a process called MLF or malolactic fermentation, wherein the microbes eat acetic acids and produce softer acids.
French oaks and American oak are the two types of oak used for aging. Both impart different qualities to the wine. For example, French oak wines are subtler with more tannins, while wines aged in American oaks are intensely flavored with lesser tannins. Besides, the different oaks, the age, and size of the vessel also influence the flavor of the wines.
To get the final product, which is clear wine without particles, the wine is passed through a filtration process. The filtration process should be a gentle process to ensure that the wine doesn’t lose its flavor. There are two types of filtration processes commonly used, surface filters and depth filters. In surface filters, the wine is passed through a membrane, and the left-over deposits are collected over the membrane. In-depth filters, the wine is passed through a porous material that is lined with filter pads. The particles get trapped in these layers, making the process gentler.
Once the wine is filtered, it goes for bottling. It’s important to ensure that the bottling environment is sterile and hygienic to avoid any spoilage. To avoid any microbiological changes, the temperature in the bottling unit should be cool. Wines are finally closed with natural corks, synthetic corks, or synthetic screw caps.
When To Drink The Wine
In most cases, once the wine is bottled, it’s ready for consumption. Only a few fine wines are aged. Some winemakers age the wine for a while and release it only when it’s ready for consumption.
On The Table
Usually, there are varied opinions on when to drink age-worthy wines. However, it’s a question of personal taste. Every winemaker goes through this complex process of winemaking to provide an enjoyable wine. Therefore, once you’ve bought your bottle of wine, make sure to store it well.
The next time you go wine shopping, take some time to read the labels and appreciate the making process. This way, along with the flavors and aroma of the wine, you can also enjoy the journey of your wine from the vineyard to your table.