The ingredients for making wine are naturally available. Wine-making has been in existence for hundreds and hundreds of years now. It is a natural process that entails minimal human intervention. It is up to humans if they want to follow the natural method or not. Wine-making is an art, but the process also includes science. Every step during the wine-making process plays a vital role as a small mistake also impacts the final product. The wine-making process has five stages, which are mandatory to complete the process. They are:
- Crushing and Pressing
- Aging and Bottling
Winemakers use endless deviations and variations along these five stages to enhance the taste, aroma, and textures. The variations in the wine-making process result in unique wines with great taste and texture.
The process of making red and white wine is the same, just that there is one exception. Further, the making of rose wine includes comparatively more human intervention than the other two. Let us understand the wine-making process in detail.
The primary step in the wine-making process is harvesting. Grapes are the only fruit that can produce a good amount of sugar to yield sufficient alcohol. Additionally, no other fruits have the required acids and tannins to make a stable wine regularly.
The ripeness of grapes is determined by the harvester's use of a combination of science and old tasting techniques. The winemakers, harvesters, consultants, vineyards managers, and all the proprietors have a say in deciding if the grapes are ready to be harvested or not. Winemakers prefer using the hand harvesting technique over the mechanical process. It is believed that using the machine can be too hard on the fruit. After the fruit reaches the winery, winemakers segregate the grape bunches by culling the under-ripe and rotten fruits.
Crushing and Pressing
Crushing and pressing is the next step in the wine-making process. Traditionally, men and women danced in barrels and pressed to squeeze and crush the fruit. Next, the grapes are trodden and stomped into a thick liquid popularly known as a must.
With the advancements in technology, winemakers now use mechanical crushers for this process. The use of mechanical crushers has improved the quality and longevity of the wine. As a result, the has reduced the use of preservatives in wine.
These two steps are the same for making red and white wine. However, if the winemakers prepare white wine, they separate the juice from the skin and the seeds. It is the skin contact that brings the color and tannins into the wine. The separation of the liquid is a mandatory step, or the winemakers will not have a magnificent white wine.
The next step is to ferment the must. When the must or juice is left on its own, it begins to ferment within 6-12 hours. Natural fermentation is a result of the presence of wild yeast in the air. However, winemakers tend to intervene at this moment.
They kill the natural yeast to introduce a new strain of yeast which helps them predict the final result. Most reputed, well-established wineries make it a point to use a particular yeast to ferment a unique tasting wine.
In any case, when the fermentation begins, it only stops when all the sugar converts into alcohol and a bottle of dry wine is made. Fermentation may take anywhere between 10 days to a month or maybe more.
The alcohol levels in wine depend on the region of the fruit. Cold climate areas usually have an alcohol level of 10%, whereas warmer regions consider 15% normal. Most sweet wines are produced when fermentation stops before all the sugar is turned into alcohol.
When the fermentation is complete, the next step in the process begins. Winemakers may choose to rack or siphon their wines from one tank to another, presuming that the residues will be left behind. Winemakers also prefer to complete the filtration and fine at this stage.
Additional substances are also added in wine to clarify the large particles. For example winemakers add clay to the wine, so the particles stick to it and settle at the bottom of the storage tank. They also use filters to strain the large particles. The wine is prepared for aging and bottling.
Aging and Bottling
Aging and bottling is the final stage in the wine-making process. The winemakers at this stage have the liberty to age the wine in a bottle or give it additional aging in stainless steel barrels, large wooden ovals, etc. Winemakers undertake this final stage in endless ways as it helps in producing varied flavored wines. However, the result is a bottle of wine, so enjoy!