This is a beginner’s overview of how wine is made. In theory, wine is made by growing grapes, picking and crushing them, allowing their juices to ferment, and putting the resulting liquid into bottles.
However, for wineries, it's a bit more complex than this.
Vintners have important decisions to make during every step in the wine making process. These decisions can either favorably or unfavorably affect their final product.
The basic wine making steps are:
Choosing A Vineyard
The location chosen to plant wine grapes is perhaps the most important decision a wine maker has. Climate, weather, topography, and soil composition must be perfect for the vines to produce, and for the grapes to ripen properly.
Deciding When To Harvest
The next most important factor in wine making is choosing the right time to harvest (pick) the grapes.
The grapes must be harvested in peak condition for their particular variety. Several factors will be considered including sugar levels, color and taste.
It’s also important for grapes to be picked carefully so
they’re not bruised or split. Both hand picking and machine harvesting
procedures are both used today. Hand picking is the method preferred by many
fine wine producers and employed almost exclusively in
Preparation And Crushing
Next, the grapes will be separated from their stems and leaves, usually by a special machine. If left in contact with the grapes too long after harvest, stems give off a bitter unwanted taste.
It is at this point that red grapes will be treated differently than white grapes.
White wine grapes are crushed and their juice is separated from their skins.
Most red wines skins will remain with their juice to impart their color, tannins, and flavor to the wine.
Fermentation is the process that converts a grape’s naturally occurring sugar to alcohol. All wine grapes have some wild yeast present already, but these yeast strains are very unpredictable. Most wine makers today add specialized cultured yeasts to produce more predictable results. Sugars may also be added. Fermentation can take place in several types of vessels, depending upon the type of wine being made.
Most often, stainless steel vats are used for white wines and oak barrels, American or French, are used for red wines. The type of fermentation vat or barrel chosen will also give the wine some of its flavor.
The proper length of time and correct temperature are very important in fermentation.
At some time during the fermentation process or after fermentation, red wine skins are separated from their juice.
Racking - Fining - Filtering
Once the appropriate alcohol content has been reached and fermentation is complete, the yeast and any other particles left behind must be separated from the finished product.
This is done by racking (pumping just the liquid out of the fermenting vat or container, fining (further clarifying the liquid), and filtering if necessary.
Bottling and Aging
The final step in the wine making process is putting the finished liquid into its bottle and labeling it. Some wines will be ready to drink right away. Some (particularly reds) will be aged for a time before they are released to the public.
Understanding Different Types of Wines
All types of wine fall into one of these categories:
Within each of these categories will be several specific grape types. An individual grape type is called a varietal.
A wine’s character and flavor
will be determined by the specific grape varietal grown and how those grapes are
treated throughout the
Rosé is made one of three ways:
This method is discouraged in most wine growing regions and
has even fallen out of vogue in
Worldwide, dry rosé wine is preferable to sweet. Many consider dry Spanish and French rose wine to be some of the best in the world.
Over the years, rose wines produced in the
However, this too is changing as
The most well known type of sparkling wine
The Spanish wine region of
United States, sparkling wine cont’d
In addition to Domaine Chandon, several French champagne
producers have set up shop in the
Most now use the traditional champagne grapes of
Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, plus Pinot Blanc.
One of the least familiar types of sparkling wine produced
The earliest dessert wines were often sweet because they had not completely fermented. The sweetness of today's dessert wines is often a result of their naturally occurring sugars (glucose and fructose), which increase the longer a grape ripens on the vine. The residual sugars in dessert wine can also be the result of a freeze late in the harvest (as is the case with ice wine), or a mold infection ("noble rot"). Another method used in the creation of dessert wine is the addition of brandy which stops fermentation.
The most well known dessert wine
is their ice wine.
France produces many fine dessert wines, their most famous is Sauternes.
Italy also produces a wide variety of fine dessert wines.
Those most well-known are:
Port comes from the city of
Named for the port city in
Sherry can be light or dark, dry or sweet. The different types of Sherry include: Fino - pale and dry, Manzanilla - pale and dry with a salty flavor, Amontillado - dark and rich with a nutty flavor, Oloroso - medium brown with a dry, rich flavor, Amoroso - brown and sweet, best as an after dinner drink, and Cream - the sweetest sherry, best as an after dinner drink.