How Is Wine Made


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How Wine Is Made

If you have ever wondered how wine is made, here is some helpful information.

All winemaking begins in the vineyard. In order to create a fine bottle of wine, there is not much a winemaker can do without ripe grapes from a prefect vineyard in the right conditions. The next step is to get the juice out of the grapes and it has to be done carefully under controlled conditions. In the old days, it was done by people actually stomping on the grapes with their feet. Today of course, with modern technology and the use of sanitary equipment, once the juice has been exposed, the winemaker can allow the natural yeast that clings to the grape skins, turn the sugars in the juice into alcohol and carbon dioxide, or they can neutralize the yeast and add their own strain or variety to make it unique to them. Fermentation is the process of converting sugars into alcohol and carbon dioxide with the aid of yeast.

  All goes according to plan when nature is working in balance. Of course we all know that in reality, nature can be extremely unpredictable.  As a winemaker, this is one of the most biggest problems they run into when trying to produce a fine bottle or an outstanding "batch" of wine. Fortunately, technology has come to the aid of winemakers in an activity that is a careful balance of science and art.

  The modern winemaker, thanks to science, have many technological options that are available to them. But - whether the end product is white, red or pink, or whether it's expensive or cheap - there are many different factors that are common and are important to the winemaking process.

Harvesting and Preparing the Grapes

 
Grapes must be picked at the exact moment of ripeness in order to make the best wine possible. The sugar content increases as the grapes ripen and, at the same time, their acidity declines. The trick is to harvest them when the sugar and acid levels are in balance. This is always a subjective judgment by the winemaker and is based on what style of wine they are producing and what they want their final product to be.
  During harvest it is crucial that the grape skins not be split open prematurely. The winemaker does not want fermentation to begin before the grapes enter the winery. With the advent of modern technology and machinery we are now able to use machines to pick the grapes from the vines. Although, handpicking grapes is most gentle and produces a much better wine, mechanical harvesting machines can handle grape bunches with some care and is much faster. Handpicking grapes obviously is much slower and thus much more expensive for any winery.
  When the grapes are harvested and enter the winery they are carefully crushed. This crushing process produces a combination of juice, seeds and the skins of the grapes and when all combined it is called a must. if white wine is the final goal, the skins and the seeds will be separated from the juice as soon as possible, and only the juice will go into the tank or barrel for fermentation. If red wine is the goal, the entire must will into a tank for fermentation.

Red Wine vs White Wine

A lot of people wonder what makes the difference between red and white wine. The main thing that separates white wine from red wine is the presence of the actual skins of the grapes and whether they are red grapes or white grapes.

White Wine

Most white wines come from white grapes, which are actually greenish yellow, golden yellow or even pinkish yellow. Regardless of the actual color of the skins, the juice for white whine is fermented without the skins and seeds. The result is no tannin and little color. White wines can take on a pale straw color or take on even a greenish to deep gold tones, depending on the grape variety and aging treatment.
  White wines have a propensity to produce tartaric acid crystals known as "wine diamonds." they're harmless - but a nuisance. They form when wine gets too cold. Many winemakers force crystals to form under extremely cold conditions during fermentation so they can remove them. The process is called cold stabilization.

Aging in Barrels or Bottle

Winemakers have similar decisions to make regarding aging white wines in oak barrels. Chardonnay, for example, is fairly neutral in flavor on its own and can benefit from oak. Others, such as Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc, are less likely to be oak-aged.
  Most white wines are meant to be drunk young, but there are exceptions. Some whites with aging potential in bottle include white Burgundies and German Rieslings.

Organic Wine

Most winemakers are farmers. It was only a matter of time before the organic movement reached the vineyards. The wines they produce will be only as good as the grapes they grow. So they have a natural interest in growing the best-tasting fruit and maintaining the health of the land for years to come.
  All in all, when it comes to wine, it all starts in the vineyard. Without good grapes and great winemakers of course we all could not enjoy the benefits of of a great glass of wine with our family and friends. So Cheers to you and enjoy your next glass. Now that you know a little bit more of how wine is made I hope you can appreciate your next glass of wine a little bit more.

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Lisa Brando - With the help from Peter Alig
You can read more from his wonderful and informative book at the everything guide to wine.
Wine educator - Robert Mondavi Winery
 

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