How Is Wine Made?
The wine making process happens in stages. It starts with the harvesting of grapes and ends in a delicious glass of wine sitting in your hand. People have been making wine for at least 6,000 years and possibly longer. This is how wine is made today:
1. Harvesting the Grapes
Vineyards grow the grapes for what the varietals they plan to make, considering, of course, the soil conditions and climate. Wine grapes must be harvested at the exact right time of year so that they'll have the right acidity, flavor, and sweetness. This depends on the environment and weather that year. Hand-picking the grapes helps preserve them longer – until the next step.
2. Crushing the Grapes
This might be the most famous part of how wine is made. Don't worry, no one's crushing them with their feet the way they do in classic movies. For a long time, this has been done mechanically.
For white wine, the pressed grape juice is separated from the pulpy parts of the grape, skin, and seeds. Red wine isn't separated, as it acquires flavor and tannins from its prolonged contact.
3. The Fermentation Process
This juice is also called must. It's left to ferment. Some winemakers leave it to do so naturally, and others add cultured yeast to make the process more predictable.
What does fermentation mean? This is when the sugar in the juice develops into alcohol. The longer the process goes, the more sugar converts into alcohol. This creates a dry wine. The earlier the process is stopped, the more sugar remains, creating a sweeter wine.
4. Clarifying the Wine
This process leaves proteins, yeasts, and other solids in the wine. This has to be clarified. The wine is racked into containers.
Winemakers may add elements that help to clarify out the wine's impurities. Different solids are attracted to different natural materials. This is called fining. Clay is often used because it attracts these solids and then sinks to the bottom. This makes it easier to filter the wine into the container in which it will age.
5. Aging the Wine
Wines can be bottled immediately, but they're typically aged for some time. This can be done in barrels, tanks, or bottles. Oak barrels are often used to preserve the smoothness of red wines while adding flavor. Steel tanks are often used for white wines to retain crispness.
When it's done aging, the wine is bottled for sale. This is the wine making process in full. Now you know ever step in how wine is made. It's something to appreciate the next time you enjoy a glass.