How Wine Is Made
The Wine-Making Process
Wine refers to all alcoholic beverages mainly made by fermenting grape juice and sometimes other types of fruits including apples, plums and even flowers. There are two main types of wine ; white wine which is made from white grape varieties and red wine which is made from the red grape varieties. Sometimes, white wine can be made from grapes with red skins but do not produce colored juices.
These two types of wine are further categorized into wine styles depending on the preferences and the creativity of the wine maker. Whatever the style and type of wine, below is a simple process that covers how all wines are made.
Most grape varieties only mature once in a year and this is why wines are labeled according to the year of harvest and production. Once the grapes are ripe and mature, they can be harvested from the vine yards manually or using machines. Although many wine makers prefer the manual grape harvesting, the machines are now used more often than not by commercial winemakers because they are faster and more cost effective.
The harvesting process can affect the quality of the wine. The grapes used must be ripe and they must be harvested under cool temperatures. They must also be checked to ensure that there are no rotten or unsuitable grapes.
Once the harvesting process is complete, the grapes are transferred to a crusher; all the leaves and stems are removed before the grapes are crushed into must. The must simply refers to the crushed grapes which includes the skins, the juice and the seeds. The must is now ready for fermentation.
Fermentation and Pressing
This is where grapes are converted into wine.
Pressing is a process where the grape juice is strained and separated from the must. The white grapes are pressed before being fermented in order to ensure that the juice does not stay in contact with the skins for long; which would otherwise influence the color of the wine.
For red wine however, the must is fermented as it is in order to give the wine its red color. The longer the juice is left in contact with the grape skins, the darker the wine.
While traditional winemakers allow the wine to ferment using natural yeast that is found in the vineyards, most industrial wine producers use cultured yeasts during the fermentation process in order to control the quality of the wine. The yeast consumes the sugars in the grape juice and produces alcohol which now is the wine. White wine is fermented the same way as red wine but the only difference is that the skins are removed before the whole fermenting process begins.
The fermented red grapes are transferred to a separate container to be pressed in order to separate the wine from the grape skins.
Packaging and Aging
After the wine has been fermented and pressed, it is ready for consumption. It can be filtered and packaged in bottles ready for distribution if aging is not preferred.
If aging is preferred, the wine is transferred into wooden barrels or stainless steel tanks and matured for at least six months and sometimes up to several years before it is packaged and distributed.
What Differentiates Wine?
Of course the grape varieties used will determine whether the end product is red wine or white wine. Different grapes are used for white wine and different grapes are used to make red wine.
How long the grape skins were left in contact with the grape juice usually influences the different styles of wine.
The yeasts used by the wine makers during the fermentation process will also influence the wine.
Some wines are packaged and distributed immediately after fermentation. Others however are stored and left to mature for long periods of time. This aging process influences the quality, the taste and the color of the wine. Wine especially which has been aged in wooden oak barrels have a darker color and a richer taste than others.