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The Wine Making Process

Posted in Wine Cellar Tips

The art and science of making wine has been known for thousands of years. Although the process of making wine happens naturally, intervention through specific stages can make the final product better.  From the vine to your lips there are five steps.

Step 1 – Harvesting

Getting the grapes off the vine is the obvious first step in the process.  Why grapes?  Can you make wine out of other fruit?  Yes you can, but grapes have the needed acids, esters, and tannins that keep the process stable enough to constantly make good wine.

Timing is essential because the instant the grapes are picked, their sweetness, acidity, and flavor are locked in and determine then and there the flavor of the final product.  Although deciding when to pick the grapes is a science, wine makers also depend on tasting the grape to make that decision.  And as all farmers know, weather plays a major role in determining harvest timing.

Step 2 – Crushing

Once sorted the stems are removed, the grapes are crushed, usually by a machine, but if you want to use your feet that’s how it was done in the past.  The grapes are crushed into “must”, which is basically freshly crushed grapes that include the skins, seeds, and other solids.

White wine grapes go through the same process except the wine maker will work quickly to separate the juice from the skins and seeds to avoid unwanted tannins and color seeping into the juice.  With reds, this isn’t an issue for the tannins and color are welcomed as they help provide a richer flavor and added body.

Step 3 – Fermentation

If you are making wine with us at The Wine Cellar than fermentation is your first step as we have over 100 different high quality Juices from the finest vineyards around the globe.

Must or Juice begins fermenting naturally when exposed to yeast in the air within 6-12 hours.  Most wine makers help this process get off and running by adding their own commercially cultured yeast.  Doing so will help the wine maker predict the result, making sure to produce quality wine consistently.

If you are making wine from “kits” you must include the yeast in order for fermentation to occur.  That is because all wine kits are pasteurized.  This pasteurization is done to “kill” any wild yeast that occurs naturally in all fruits of any kind growing outside.

This process continues until all the sugar is converted into alcohol creating a dry wine. For sweeter wines, the process can be stopped before all the sugar is converted. This fermentation process lasts between 10-30 days.

Step 4 – Clarification

Clarification is exactly what it sounds like.  It’s the process where proteins, tannins, and dead yeast cells are removed.  The wine is transferred to different containers usually glass jugs, oak barrels, or a stainless-Steel tank, during which time it’s filtered or fined.  (Finning is where a substance is added to attract and adhere to unwanted particles or solids)

Step 5 – Aging / Bottling

The wine maker decides at this point to bottle the new wine as is, or to move it to oak barrels where the wine becomes smoother, more rounded, and takes on some of the flavor from the oak.

The aging process can take anywhere from a couple of more months or as much as 8 months to a year before consuming.  This is actually the hardest part about making wine.

Some of my best wines are the ones I forgot I had hiding down in my wine cellar.