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How Wine Is Made
If you have ever
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.
When creating a wine gift designers usually will put in fresh
fruit in season to create a
fruit and wine gift basket.
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.
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.
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.
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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