Sure, you might like a cold beer on a hot day, but there’s something about sipping a glass of wine that just feels right. Whether you’re kicking back on the patio with friends or enjoying a romantic night in, wine can enhance any situation. But what is it about this drink that has people coming back for more?
Wine is a drink that, when it’s done right, can be enjoyed by anyone. It can also be beneficial for people who are on a diet because the alcohol content in wine actually helps you eat less and lose weight.
Winemaking is a very complicated process that takes years of study and practice to perfect. There are many factors that go into wine production, such as the grapes used, fermentation time, and aging techniques. This post will explore some of the most important aspects that winemakers need for success in their craft.
The Wine Making Process
The winemaking process is a delicate procedure that requires an understanding of the natural processes involved. The grapes must be harvested, pressed, and fermented before they can become the sweet nectar we all know and love. It’s a lot of work, but it sure does taste worth it!
Here are the most common steps when making wine:
Harvesting of Grapes
The process of harvesting grapes to make wine is a time-honored tradition that dates back centuries. Grape harvesting is an important step in the winemaking process, as it affects the flavor and quality of the wine. There are many different methods of harvesting grapes, and each winery has its own preferred method.
Some wineries use mechanized harvesters to harvest their grapes, while others rely on handpicking. Mechanical harvesters can be expensive to purchase and maintain, so many smaller wineries still rely on handpicking. This involves using teams of workers who pick the grapes by hand from the vineyard.
The type of grape also affects how it is harvested. For example, Concord grapes are often harvested by cutting the entire vine of fruit, while other grapes such as Chardonnay are more delicate and must be picked by hand.
Crushing and Pressing
After harvesting, the grapes are crushed and pressed to extract their juice. In small-scale production, this is often done by hand using a manual crusher/press. However, most commercial wineries use large mechanical crushers and presses.
A grape press extracts the juice from wine grapes – a procedure that takes place near the end of the winemaking process. The use of presses in winemaking dates back hundreds if not thousands of years.
After being crushed, the grapes are allowed to “rest” for several hours so that any dirt or bits of stems can settle to the bottom of the vat. Now they are ready for pressing, which is accomplished through another simple machine.
The juice then goes through another process before it can become wine. It is often kept outside for several days so that all its froth and bubbles disappear. This process also allows bits of grape skin and stems not filtered out during pressing to sink to the bottom.
The yeast used for winemaking is typically a strain of Saccharomyces cerevisiae, often referred to as an ale yeast because it works at relatively high temperatures. Some varieties of grapes have naturally occurring yeast on their skins, so no additional yeast is needed. Other grapes need to be exposed to wild yeasts in the environment before fermentation can begin.
In both cases, special care needs to be taken during this process to ensure that harmful strains of bacteria don’t contaminate the grape juice and ruin the batch of wine before it begins.
A common method for preventing contamination is adding sulfur dioxide (SO2) gas to kill off any unwanted microorganisms or wild yeasts after the juice is crushed and before it’s transferred to the fermentation tanks.
Another method that some winemakers use for controlling bacteria during the fermentation process is micro-oxygenation (or micro-aeration), which simply means adding small amounts of oxygen at select times during the process. This can help discourage the growth of harmful bacteria while allowing desirable bacteria or wild yeasts to thrive.
Fermentation typically takes from a few days to a couple of weeks, depending on the type of wine being made. As yeast turns grape sugar into alcohol, carbon dioxide gas forms, and escapes. Eventually, this causes most of the grape juice’s sugar content to ferment out into alcohol, leaving mostly water behind in a process called “defecation.” The resulting wine will have an alcohol content of between 10 and 14 percent.
Once fermented, wine needs to age in order to balance the levels of acidity and tannin in the finished product. The number of times wines are given to mature varies depending on where it is produced and what type of wine is being made. Wines that are not intended for aging will include a date for when they should be consumed by printed on their label, usually around two years after their harvest.
A large number of wineries have begun installing climate-controlled storage facilities in order to hold onto their wines longer, allowing them further time for maturation. Many connoisseurs think these types of wines have a much better taste than younger producers, which can tend to be overly acidic or chewy from the tannins.
One of the most important ways that wine is aged is by being placed in oak barrels. The barrel not only provides a location for the wine to age but also contributes flavors and aromas to the beverage. New oak barrels can add vanillin, coconut, and spice notes to the wine, while older barrels will contribute flavors like tobacco, leather, and earth.
While many people believe that wine is simply left to age until it reaches its peak flavor profile, there is actually a great deal of science involved in determining when a wine is ready for release. Winemakers use various analytical tools to measure things like pH levels, residual sugar content, and the levels of alcohol and acidity, among other things.
Once the wine has matured to the winemaker’s satisfaction, it is bottled and sealed for sale. Some wines are further aged in bottles before release, but most are ready for drinking soon after bottling.
The wine must be clear and free of living yeast cells in order for it to be stored long-term without spoiling. If you are planning on bottling your own homemade wine, make sure that there is no sign of fermentation or yeast-related sediment in any of the bottles. If they are still cloudy when you are ready to bottle, then leave them out at room temperature until they clear up.
Bottling buckets are used by most people, but if you have a large amount of wine to bottle (several gallons), simply use milk jugs or other larger containers with spigots attached to make things easier during this process. It does work, although it isn’t the best way to bottle wine.
If you are not familiar with this process, don’t try it. It can cost you your batch of wine if done incorrectly (or at least leave you feeling like a fool). If you are still determined to stick to using milk jugs or other containers without spigots, keep in mind that they will be very hard to clean and sanitize properly because of their size and shape.
The wine-making process is truly amazing. It takes months to go from just grapes or other fruit in your hand into a beverage that can be paired with foods and enjoyed in good company. As you have read, the steps are plentiful throughout this process, but when done right, they need to be followed carefully to ensure no mistakes are made.
When all is said and done, though, the most important part of the process is patience. One must wait at least three years before their first bottle can be consumed with pleasure after making it themselves.
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