The production of wine from grapes is not an easy or standard process. Significant education and practice goes into being a successful wine maker. There are considerations at all levels of grape farming and wine production that require skilled professionals. While the process of making wine from grapes is not easy to perfect, however, the basics of winemaking are fairly easy to understand. A proper knowledge of the processes behind winemaking is highly valuable for the full enjoyment of a particular wine. This knowledge also helps with the understanding of the differences between types of wine and aids greatly in the search for that perfect wine selection.
Things You'll Need
- Properly harvested grapes
- Destemming machine
- Crushing machine
- Fermenting containers
- Cane or beet sugar
- Filtering mechanism
- Aging containers
- Appropriate packaging
The first step of winemaking is harvesting the grapes. The type of grape planted dictates the style of wine that will be produced, and each type of grape requires specific timing and growing conditions. Some of the more important variables that need to be considered for the timing of the harvest include the weather, the ripeness of the grapes, sugar and acidity levels, pH, color and smell. Grapes have traditionally been harvested by hand, and still are in many vinyards, but there are also modern machines that are sometimes used to complete the picking process.
Once a grape is picked, it must be transported to the crush location within eight hours. The next step is to put all of the grapes through a destemming machine. The stems of grapes if left on can greatly change the taste of a wine, so this process is absolutely crucial for purity of flavor.
The next step is fermenting. For white wine grapes, the skin of the grape is separated from the inside for fermentation. With red wine grapes, fermentation involves the entire grape. The amount of time the skins stay with the insides determines the darkness of a wine (from blush to dark red), because wine color comes from the pigment of the grape skin. During fermentation, yeast is added to the grapes in order to turn the natural sugar into alcohol. Cane or beet sugar can also be added to further increase alcohol content. This fermentation process lasts for 7-to-14 days, depending on the wine variety.
After fermentation comes the filtering process. Wine undergoes an elaborate filtering process before it is stored. This includes allowing sediment to settle in the wine over a period of time, and then transferring the cleared wine to another container. The time and temperature of these settling periods needs to be carefully monitored and planned, depending on the type of wine being produced.
The next step is the aging process. The methods of storing wine during aging vary greatly, from cool underground wine cellars to aboveground steel containers. The time required for wines to age depends on the variety of wine. Rose wines age fairly quickly, while some red wines need to age for three or more years. After the aging process is complete, the wine is filtered one final time to remove any further sediment.
The final step is the bottling and corking process. The type of sealing procedure used varies by preference and by individual winemakers. Traditional cork can be used, as well as screw tops. Seals are also an option and can vary from aluminum to wax, placed over the corked lip of the bottle. For a wine to live for its full shelf life, and to continue any necessary aging, it must be properly sealed.
Tips & Warnings
- Winemaking should be done by a professional team, though there are simple starter winemaking kits that are sold in some specialty stores. The process of these kits may vary from the traditional winemaking process of harvesting, crushing, fermenting, aging and packaging.
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