Winemaking is no new endeavor. It has been around for thousands of years, and thankfully the process is natural as mother nature has provided everything that is needed to make wine. It is up to humans to improve what nature has provided, and you will agree with this if you have extensive wine tasting experience.
There are necessarily five stages in the making of wine: harvesting, crushing and pressing, fermentation, clarification, then aging, and bottling. There are a few deviations that different brands use to make their wine unique, but those five steps are the fundamentals.
Let’s look into them.
- The harvest
Harvesting or picking is, no doubt, the first step in winemaking. Without the fruit, we can’t talk about wine; and the fruit is none other than grape. No other fruit has enough sugar to produce the amount of alcohol needed to preserve the beverage. And the required acids, esters and tannins can be found only in grapes.
Most winemakers harvest grapes manually or mechanically when the grapes are ripe. Upon getting to the winery, winemakers sort the grape bunches, cutting out rotten or under-ripe fruit before crushing.
- Crushing and pressing
The next stage in winemaking is crushing and pressing. In time pasts, men and women have to crush the grapes manually but nowadays, mechanical crushing has been introduced. Many winemakers prefer to let fermentation occur before crushing and pressing.
It is important to note that until crushing, the process of making white and red wine are the same. Also, when making white wine, the grapes are pressed to separate the juice from the skins, seeds and solids. That way, the unwanted color from the skin does not leach into the white wine.
Fermentation is an important process in the winemaking process. When allowed to ferment naturally, the wine will take 6-12 hours to begin. However, winemakers can also inoculate the fermentation process to not only speed up the reaction but also accurately determine the alcohol level.
Immediately fermentation is complete; clarification takes place. Winemakers can use either rack or siphon their wines from one tank or barrel to the other. This is done to extract precipitates and solids known as pomace at the bottom of the fermentation tank. Winemakers can also filter at the clarification stage.
- Aging and bottling
After clarification, winemakers can go on to bottle the wine or proceed to age. Further aging can be done in the bottle, stainless barrels or ceramic tanks, large wooden ovals, or small barrels. Whatever choice is employed at this final stage is up to the winemaker, and the options are endless. The end product of them all, however, is your fine, lovely wine.