Winemaking is a process that has been around for many thousands of years. There is a precise science involved in the art of winemaking, from grape vines dating back hundreds or even thousands of years, to the process of fermentation to create the ultimate wine taste. Basic winemaking is a purely natural process that requires very little human involvement. However, each winemaker will have a list of different techniques that they will use to make their wine unique.
However, as a general rule, there are five main components to the winemaking process. The harvesting of grapes, pressing and crushing of grapes, fermentation process, clarification, aging, and bottling. Although the process is long and takes years to master, winemakers typically follow these steps (but add their variations) to make their wine their own.
Harvesting is the first step one of the most crucial steps to creating delicious wine. Grapes contain the perfect combination of tannins, acids, and esters to produce a consistent, stable wine. Tannins are the elements of a grape that adds bitterness and acidity to the wine.
The sweetness, acidity, and flavor of the wine are determined by the time the grapes are picked. Knowing when to harvest is where real science happens. The sweetness and acidity of a grape need to have the perfect balance based on the type of wine being produced, and seasoned harvesters can usually tell just by the taste if the grapes are ready.
Harvesting is done both mechanically and by human hand, depending on the vineyard. Most winemakers prefer to hand-harvest as the process of mechanical harvesting can have an impact on the quality of the product. Once harvested, the grapes are with any grapes that are not up to standard removed.
Crushing And Pressing
After the sorting process, they are de-stemmed and crushed. Although many wineries still perform this task by foot, the methods are typically mechanical these days. The grapes are pressed into a juice that is called must, which contains skins, seeds and the solid parts of the grape’s flesh. In white wine production, the grapes are pressed as soon as they are crushed to remove the solids, to prevent unwanted colors. In red wine, they are all left to ferment together.
Once the crushing and pressing process is finished, fermentation begins. Most begin fermenting within just 6 hours on its own. However,most winemakers choose to add commercial cultured yeast to yield a better, more consistent end product.
The fermentation process turns the natural sugars into alcohol, and when this process is complete, the product is a dry wine. This process can take many weeks. For sweeter wines, winemakers will merely stop the process of fermentation before the sugars are all converted.
One fermented the process of removing tannins, dead yeast cells, and unwanted proteins begin. This process is done by adding finings, or filtration processes to the wine. Finings are products that are added to the liquid, like clay, which forces the solid particles to sink to the bottom of the barrels. Filtration is where a filter of sorts is used to catch the larger particles that might be present in the wine. Once completed, the wine will be added to aging oak barrels or prepared for bottling.
Aging And Bottling
Aging and bottling is the last stage of the process. A winemaker can decide at this point whether to age the wine or bottle it. Aging can be done in the stainless steel tanks, bottles, or oak barrels. Aging the wine in oak barrels will produce a much more delicate wine, and decreases tannins within the wine. Once aging is complete, or if no aging is required, the wine is then added to bottles and distributed.