Understanding Wines- The Process

Edited by Shivangi Srivastava

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Wine has always been a mystical liquor to many naïve drinkers. Most of them only drink for the pleasure of it, without understanding the complexities behind it. And, even to this day, it mystifies me as well. For us to understand this alcohol better, we need to go to the root of it, i.e. how it is made. This requires understanding what happens to the pressed juices of grapes before they are put into the bottle.

The Process

The process of making wine can be divided into majorly 5 parts for White wines and 6 parts for Red wines. (I will try to list the process along with the wine it is associated with.) As per the winemaker, these processes could be sub-divided into various other processes. However, we will stick to the major steps involved in making the wine from the vines to our tables. Let’s see them in action.

Crushing the Grapes (White and Red)

This happens for both Red and White wines as without the picking of grapes and then, subsequently, crushing them, there would be no wine. Now, many would argue that Picking should be a different step altogether but, personally, the process begins when you have the actual raw materials to process. So, when the grapes are picked and delivered to the winery, the process begins there.

For both, the grapes of the wine are crushed to release some juice. They are not crushed that hard that they cannot be sorted for skins and stalks afterward. For red wine, skins and stalks are kept with the mix but they are removed for the white wine.

Pressing it Hard (White only)

Pressing happens in two different time periods for white and red wines. White grapes are pressed before fermentation and red grapes after fermentation.

This step is involved in getting all the juice out of the grapes after removing skins and stalks from the white grapes. The removal of skins and stalks is done to avoid any bitterness or dryness which will accompany the sweet juice.*

They are pressed using a wine press to extract the maximum juice out of them.

Fermentation Begins (White and Red)

Yeast is added to the grape juice and the fermentation begins. This is the step that converts the sugar of grapes into alcohol. The chemical reaction takes place within a Stainless Steel Vat or and Oak Barrel. It is a personal choice for the wine maker to choose either one. **

The process for red wine is a bit different because of all the skins and stalks involved. If the stalks and skins are left too long during the fermentation process the wine will become bitter. The fermentation process takes about 2-3 weeks to complete for either grape. During this time period, the rotation or mixing of skins and stalks is done on a daily basis for the red wine. While making Rose wine the skins and stalks are only kept in for a few hours or till the desired colour is attained. The rest of the fermentation happens without skins.

Draining and Pressing (Red wine only)

Once the fermentation is complete the liquid is drained off the skins. The leftover skins and stalks are pressed to release any remaining wine and then added to the rest of the batch. The reason why this pressing is different is that in white wine you do not want that bitterness and dryness whereas red wines thrive on this type of flavour profile. Once this process is done the entire liquid is transferred to big steel vats or barrels for maturation.

Maturation is Vital (White and Red)

The newly made wine is transferred to big Stainless Steel Vats or Oak Barrels and is left for maturation. Please note that the Rose wine almost never goes into the Oak barrels. White wines are subjected to the choice of the winemaker for a barrel. Red wines almost most certainly sit in the barrels. #

This is the process where wine starts to develop a flavour profile and tasting notes, which you normally hear from people talking about. This depends highly on the choice of container and the length of maturation to give the distinctiveness. The process could last from a few months to years, depending upon the age of the barrel.

Bottling to You (White and Red)

The final step for wine to reach you on your table is Bottling. A different bottle of shapes and sizes are used for different types of wines. The labelling matters the most when it comes to commercial use. ##

I hope this helps you to understand the process of making wine and answers some of the questions you would be scratching your head about. This had been a lengthier post than usual but I hope that I was able to make this one more informative. Stay tuned for posts on wines as we understand this delicious liquor in entirety, together.  

* Skins and stalks are providers for tannins, for which I might write a new post. To keep things simpler, let’s just stick to bitterness and dryness for the time being.

** Once we dive deeper into the subject you will understand that the selection over here is critical. This will be covered in future posts.

–          Discussing barrel selection in this topic will be lengthy; I will create a new post for that.

–          A new post will be shared for the labelling importance in the future.

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