Making wine is lengthy process that involves more than stompin’ on some grapes and pouring juice into a bottle. In fact, the scientific system is quite complicated and involves chemistry and biochemistry methods that I am not qualified to comprehend, never mind explain. However, having some general knowledge of its creation can help you understand what elements make wine taste the way it does.
So here, broken down for us in simpler terms, is the wine making process from vineyard to winery to our kitchen tables.
Arguably the most important step in wine making is growing grapes. Vineyard location, climate and soils all impact the final wine we get to enjoy. The grapes’ exposure to sunlight and time on the vine also determine development and sugar levels.
Beginning late summer to fall, grapes are either hand picked or machine harvested. The type of method used can obviously affect cost; however, using a machine can increase efficiency for larger vineyards while handpicking acts as a primary selection process for ripe grapes. Once grapes are gathered they are transported to the winery.
Whether the grapes are machine or hand picked, they go through a sorting process done by hand. This ensures only the finest grapes are used, removing rotten or raisined grapes and leaves. A destemmer removes the fruit from stem and also lightly crushes the grapes. This allows for the sugar in the juices to blend with natural yeasts from grape skins.
Red or White?
When making a red wine, grapes are fermented with skins in order to form colour characteristics and tannins. In making white wine, grapes are removed along with the stems and further pressed before heading to fermentation. Traditional wineries may choose the “stomp” method or foottrodden to begin the fermenting process.
The crushed grapes are brought to stainless steel containers where natural or added yeasts turn sugar in the juice into alcohol and carbon dioxide – which is released from the open container. Red wines are fermented at hotter temperatures until all sugars have developed, while white wines are typically moved earlier for sweeter taste and a lower alcohol content.
Pressing and Malolactic Fermentation
Removing solids from grapes skins is done by a “punch down” or by pumping it over top of itself; this also feeds oxygen to the wine in order for yeasts to continue to grow. The wine is then matured (typically in barrels for red wine) in order to produce a softer mouth feel and reduce acidity.
Fining and Filtration
Wine is kept in oak barrels or stainless steel tanks where they can remain for months to several years before final filtration. This process ensures all sediments and solids are removed from the wine in order to ensure the product is not cloudy but smooth for consumption. Some wines are unfiltered and should be decanted when opened at home.
Using nitrogen or carbon dioxide, the wine is pumped into bottles that are then topped by either cork or a screw cap – depending on the wineries preference. Afterwards, a label is glued on, completing the wine making process. Bottles can be put away for further maturation or sent off to consumers.
From carefully selecting their ripest grapes to unlimited testing to reach perfection, we appreciate the winemakers who have mastered their craft and are now producing quality wines.