Winemaking dates back thousands of years ago. The production process is still the same however, it has been simplified over the years by technology. There are different types of wine, but the making procedure is the same. The difference comes in the duration of the fermentation and types of grapes used in making wine.
Harvested grapes are the main ingredients needed for making wine. The wine production process takes place naturally and requires little to no intervention. Human intervention helps improve the test of wine. Winemakers can add some variations to add some uniqueness to their brands, nonetheless, they typically follow the same basic stages of making wine.
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Let’s go through the basic stages of making wine.
You need fruit to make wine. Grapes are harvested by hand or machine. Harvesting by hand is better for being precise on picking the grapes. Whereas, harvesting by machine is effective when dealing with large vineyards. Winemakers prefer harvesting by hand because machines can be rough on the grapes. Picking grapes at night gets them at more stable sugar levels than during the day because of the absence of atmospheric heat. Timing and the weather are important factors in determining the sweetness, acidity, and flavor of the wine.
When picking grapes, slightly less ripe grapes are picked for making wines with less acidity. The riper grapes are generally used in the production of sweet wines.
The harvested grapes are then taken to the winery and here they await the next step.
The purpose of crushing is to extract the juice to become the wine. Destemming is a process where the grapes are separated from the stems holding them. Today these procedures are done through specialized machines. Traditionally, grapes were crushed by stomping them with the feet, but times change and people always look for new and easier methods for making their work easier. This is the reason behind machines taking over the grape crushing process. Machines are better because they need fewer preservatives and improve wine quality.
Crushing and destemming is different when making white and red wines. In case of the production of white wine, the white grapes are crushed, and then transferred to a press. Here the grapes are pressed to extract juice, leaving skins and irrelevant things filtered out. Thus, the juice is allowed to settle then filtered to get rid of the sediment.
In case of the production of red wine, the grapes are left with their skins to keep color and flavor as they go to the next stage.
This is the most important stage. It’s the stage that differentiates the various types of wines. The fermentation process will convert sugar to alcohol. Fermentation can take days, a week or two depending on the type of wine you’re interested in making. Red wines are fermented in large open stainless tanks or oak barrels which allow winemakers to extract more flavors. Red wine gets its color from the grape skin during fermentation as the skins are not removed. The grape skins also enrich the wine with tannins and add flavor.
In producing white wines, the skins are removed hence it’s almost colorless. However, fermentation takes place at low heat levels and monitored oxygen levels. The major difference between the production of white and red wines is the inclusion of grape skins. Removing the grape skins removes the color, making the wine white whereas inclusion of grape skins yields the red color of red wines.
Wine can also be classified as a sweet or dry wine. When making sweet wine, the winemakers prevent all the sugar from converting by stopping the fermentation process before it’s complete. For a dry wine, the fermentation process is left to finish completely to allow the sugar to be completely converted to alcohol, hence the term dry.
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Maturation is also called wine aging. The purpose of maturation is to improve the taste and flavor. After fermenting, wine is moved to separate vessels for maturation. Oak barrels are the most preferred because they allow small amounts of oxygen to dissolve in the wine, creating a flavor complexity in the wine.
Stainless steel tanks can also be used in place for the oak barrels especially when producing cheaper wines. On the brighter side of stainless-steel tanks is that they are long-lasting and require minimal maintenance.
Maturation periods depend on what type of wine is being made. Thus, aging in oak or steel tanks and the time taken influences the final flavor of the wine. The longer the maturation period the better the flavor. Wines can be left to age for months or even years but there are wines made for early consumption which take fewer durations.
Clarification is a collective word for fining and filtration. This is the stage where winemakers get rid of any unwanted substances from the wine. Fining is normally done by adding egg whites or clay to bind unwanted particles and weigh them to the bottom of the barrel or tank. Subsequently, filtration is performed to stop the large solid particles from going through.
After clarification, the wine is racked to another vessel for use in the last stage.
The final stage in the winemaking process. After the winemakers are satisfied their product is complete, they can now pack and ship to suppliers. Some winemakers can blend different wines to come up with a bottle of new wine, but this is something done by professionals who understand what they are doing. Bottling is done by mechanical bottling lines. Oxygen is displaced by filling the bottles with some carbon dioxide on top of the wine. Finally, the bottles are capped and branded, and though some winemakers can further age the bottle that’s it! You can now enjoy your glass of wine.
The aforementioned steps provide the general large-scale production procedure for your favorite bottle of wine before you’re able to enjoy it and unwind at home. However, you can also try making some wine at home too. Try the strawberry wine recipe and enjoy some homemade wine.