A Detailed Guide to Winemaking
Many of us enjoy a glassful of wine after a long tiring day, when at a holiday, or at gatherings. But ever wondered how this wine is actually made?
Yes, we do know it is made from grapes, but what are the stages involved in the process?
Right from making the wine to understanding different types of wine, everything will be covered in this post.
So, make sure that you read it right until the end!
Wine making is something that has been done from thousands of years. Making wine is not just an art but there is also a lot of science involved in the process.
Smallest of mistakes in the process can have a major impact on the final product. Basically, wine is made in 5 different steps.
While these five steps are compulsorily followed by the winemakers, they do add their variations to the process to add an exclusive touch to their wine.
Step 1 – Harvesting
The first step in making wine is harvesting. It is the grapes which contain all the required esters, tannins and acids that make delicious wine.
The moment at which the grapes are picked from the vineyard is what actually determines the sweetness, flavour and acidity of the wine.
Along with the traditional tasting method, deciding when to harvest the grapes also requires a fair bit of science.
It is very important to make sure that the sweetness and acidity of the grapes are in perfect balance while picking the grapes. And not to forget, weather also plays an important role in the harvesting process.
Harvesting can be done by hand or by machines. However, many of the winemakers prefer to do it by hand as machines are known to negatively affect the grapes and the vineyard.
Once grapes are picked, they are taken to winery and are then sorted in bunches. Under ripe and rotten grapes are removed.
Step 2- Crushing
Once the grapes are sorted in bunches, now it is time to de-stem them and crush them. This crushing process used to be done by feet in the past.
If you have ever gone on a wine tour, many of the wineries do allow you to crush them by feet as part of the tour.
However, majority of the winemakers now do this crushing process mechanically. There are mechanical presses available which trod or stomp the grapes into ‘must’.
Must is nothing but fresh grape juice which is the outcome of the crushing process and contains seeds, solids and skins of the grapes.
While winemakers prefer staying away from machines in the harvesting process as it affects the grapes negatively, in the crushing process, machines have made the process more sanitary and has also helped in increasing the quality and longevity of the grapes.
If white wine is being made then the seeds, solids and skins are quickly separated from the grape juice to prevent the tannins and color fro leaching in the wine.
On the other hand, if red wine is being made, the seeds, solids and skins are allowed to stay in contact with the juice to allow the juice to get additional tannins, flavour and colour.
Step 3 – Fermentation
Crushing and pressing is followed by the fermentation process. Must naturally starts fermenting within 6 to 12 hours when wild yeast is added to it.
But many of winemakers add cultured yeast to the must to predict the final outcome and ensure consistency.
This fermentation process continues until all the sugar is transformed into alcohol, resulting in the production of dry wine.
If sweet wine is to be made, winemakers halt the process in between to prevent entire sugar from converting.
The total fermentation process can take about a week to a month and even more.
Step 4 – Clarification
After fermentation, it’s time for clarification now. This is the process in which tannins, proteins and dead yeast is removed from the wine.
For this, the wine is transferred into stainless steel tanks or oak barrels.
Filtration or fining process is used for clarification. For clarifying, substances are also added to result in the fining process.
For instance, some winemakers add clay to the wine to which the unwanted particles will stick to and will take them to the bottom of the storage tank or barrel.
In the filtration process, filters are used to catch the larger particles.
After the clarification process, the wine is transferred into other tank and prepared for aging or bottling.
Step 5 – Aging and Bottling
The final stage of this process is aging and bottling the wine. The wine can be instantly bottled or the winemaker can give additional aging to the wine.
For aging, the wine is transferred to oak barrels, stainless steel tanks or bottles.
Many of the winemakers prefer using oak barrels for aging as it is known to add a rounder, smoother and more vanilla-like flavour to the wine.
Moreover, it also helps in increasing their oxygen exposure, allowing the tannins to get reduced and enabling the wine to reach to an optimal flavour.
For white wines, steel tanks are generally preferred.
Once the aging process finishes, the wine is then bottled with screw cap or cork.
These are the five steps that make up the winemaking process. As mentioned above, winemakers do add their variations to the process to add their exclusive flavour to the wine.
Michael is an online enthusiast, with a lot of knowledge about online marketing. Traveling around the world to hunt for the perfect wine. Latest on Sicily, where Etna has a huge impact on the taste, which is strong with a bitter aftertaste for the youngest wines, but older wines are fantastic. Drinking wine, and writing about them, are one the passions. Remember to drink responsibly 🙂