Since everyone loves wine, it’s the regular go-to at celebrations, gatherings, holiday destination, at-home relaxation spots, and more. But, have you ever wondered how this magnificent drink is made?
Read on to find everything you need to know about winemaking.
1. Fruit Picking
This is the first stage in the wine production process. Whether the winemaker has a fruit farm or buys the fruit from the market, the maker needs to pick the fruits.
Typically, the grape is the fruit used for wine production. This is because it contains a substantial amount of sugar as well as other acids, the sufficient quantity that’s required for thorough fermentation. Basically, no other fruit produces as much sugar and other acids as the grape.
Although the grape is the most used fruit for the Usual Wines, other fruits, like lemon, berries, and the likes, are also used from time to time to make some specific types of wine.
To ensure that they’re ripe enough for use yet not rotten, the fruits are picked carefully. If the fruits used are not ripe enough or they’re rotten, they affect the production outcome.
Lastly, to ensure that they are of high quality, the fruits to be used for the wine production are usually handpicked. But, in large industrial wineries, the fruits are mechanically picked.
2. Crushing and Pressing
- Cutting: Once the fruits have been picked and the unripe or rotten ones removed, the fruits begin their long journey to becoming wine. After being picked and prepared for cutting, the fruits are first washed and certified free of dirt and external microorganisms.
Typically, if multiple fruits of different sizes are used, they’re cut up into smaller sizes in different production sections. And yes, some fruits, like oranges and lemons, usually have their back peeled before they proceed to the cutting section.
- Pressing/Crushing: After being cut up, the fruits are then stomped by the winemaker(s) if the production is done manually. The stomping is to crush the fruits, secreting their juices. Industrial wineries, on the other hand, use mechanical crushing equipment to crush the fruit so the juice can be secreted.
The use of mechanical crushers to press the fruits is actually more hygienic and sanitary than human stomping. Also, the mechanical crushers perform more efficiently in pressing the fruits for total secretion than stomping. After the crushing, the fruits are further pressed for the further secretion of juice.
- Separation: Once the crushing and pressing are done, the solid (inner and outer skin of the fruit) is then separated from the juice/liquid if what’s being produced is white wine.
Separating the solids from the juice helps prevent other colors from seeping into the juice, which is to be the white wine. In the case of red wine, the solid rudiments of the crushed fruits remain with the juice until after fermentation. The solid rudiments of the fruits help enhance the color and flavor of what’s to be the red wine.
Fermentation is the major determinant of the fruit-to-wine’s outcome. The fermentation of fruit-to-wine differs from one winemaker to the other. Most winemakers try different fermentation methods to help them achieve various types of wine.
- Natural Fermentation: Naturally, if the crushed fruit (juice + inner fruit solid) is left for just 6-12 hours, wild yeasts would form on the mixture and fermentation starts taking place. Of course, this free-from-external-devices method works well to achieve some types of wine, but some winemakers tend to go for something different.
- Artificial Fermentation: Due to the unpredictability of the wild yeast, it’s hard to control and tame, creating troubles for the winemakers. To avoid this, some winemakers intervene by killing off the wild yeast and introducing an artificially grown yeast to the fruits’ juice and residue.
This method also results in the creation of some specific types of wine. There are diverse ways to aid or control the fermentation process. The chosen method of fermentation depends on the wine maker’s preference and type of wine to be produced.
- Fermentation Duration: The fermentation duration differs, depending on the concentration of the wine. But, generally, the fermentation duration is usually between 10 and 30 days. Although the fermentation period can be stretched longer if the winemaker wants.
- Alcohol: When the fermentation process starts, sugar is converted into alcohol. The fermentation process determines the intoxication impact (alcohol level) on the wine drinker. Other than the sugar content, the temperature of the place where the wine is being processed determines its fermentation rate, and subsequently, its alcohol level.
If the whole sugar content is converted into alcohol, dry wine is produced. On the other hand, if the winemaker stops the fermentation process before the sugar is totally converted to alcohol, sweet wine is produced.
4. Clarification and Bottling
Once the fruit-to-wine has been fermented, the major operation is completed. After the fermentation comes the clarification stage. The clarification stage is where the filtering, sieving, and fining takes place.
In the case of the red wine production, remember that the crushed solid residue of the fruit is still with the juice. Now, the juice needs to be extracted from the fermented solution.
There are different methods for extracting the juice, which can be manual or mechanical-based. After the solid residue has been filtered out, fining is done. At the fining stage, substances, like clay, egg white, lemon, and the likes are used to precipitate the dead yeast cells, tannins, proteins, and other fruit residues not gotten out during filtration. Fining makes it easy to get the residues out, leaving behind the clarified wine.
5. Aging and Bottling
After the wine has been clarified, the wine can be instantly bottled or left for additional aging before bottling. For additional flavor and aroma, most winemakers prefer to leave their wine to age a bit before bottling.
Red wines are usually white wines that favor steel or ceramic tanks. The aging phase exposes the wine to more oxygen, thereby reducing the tannins and also boosting its flavor.
Some winemakers still add other ingredients to the wine at this stage. After the wine has been aged, it’s then bottled and sealed. After being bottled, the wine is left for personal or commercial consumption.
From fruit picking down to bottling, there’s no doubt that the process of wine production is stressful, but it’s worth it. The savory flavor and taste of well-made wholesome wine are second to none when compared with other drinks. This is why wine is considered the king of drinks.
Which of the production stages intrigued you the most? Would you try out making your wine?