All over the world winemakers practice different techniques in order to produce the very best wine they can. Every aspect of wine-making plays an important and unique role in how the wine will turn out. From grape selection, to the amount of time that the wine is required to sit, everything plays a part. We will be taking a glimpse into the world of wine production, and look into several of the many different techniques required to make the perfect wine.
In the process of red wine production, after the grapes are harvested, they are destemmed and then crushed. The must (juice of the grapes that remains from crushing) contains all parts of the grapes, seeds, skins and the juice. The must is then transferred to fermentation containers where it is required to settle for a few days. During this time sugar and acidity levels are checked and altered if necessary. In order to ensure that the must will not become oxidized or discolored, Sulfur dioxide is added, this addition also destroys any bacteria or other microorganisms. Yeast is also added at this point, although many winemakers depend on the natural yeast in the grapes, cultured yeast gives them a more predictable balance.
Upon addition of the yeast the fermentation process begins. The must is typically fermented between 74-82 degrees Fahrenheit, higher than that of white wine production, but for a shorter amount of time, typically about 2 weeks. The next step is that of maceration, a cap begins to form in the fermentation container thus pushing all solids to the top, to create more tannins and pigments from the skins the winemaker must push the cap back into the juice, although some wineries use what is called a “rotofermenter”, which turns on its side in rotation to prevent a cap from even forming. When maceration is complete, the winemaker removes the must for pressing, at this point if the wines are going to be oak aged, they will be moved to those specific barrels.
The vast majority of red wines will also undergo a process called, “malolactic fermentation”, which creates a lower acidity in the wine by introducing Leuconostoc bacteria and an ML starter, which is comprised of nutrients, amino acids and vitamins. Once malolactic fermentation and oak barrel aging are complete, clear liquid is removed from the barrels in a process called “racking”, the solids that are left are often used as a fertilizer in the vineyard. In the final step before bottling, “clarification”, the winemakers check the wine for any imperfections, and add Sulfur dioxide once more to kill off any more microorganisms. The wines are then ready for bottling, corking, labeling and shipping.
There are some difference in regards to white wine production. Beginning with the harvesting of grapes, which must be done at a perfect time, to ensure the balance between sugars and acidity, the wrong choice can have ill-effects on the taste of the wine. Once harvested, some wineries choose to not destem and crush the grapes, some winemakers choose to do it exactly as in the process of making red wine, it is simply a matter of the opinion. In regards to pressing, this is a very careful process, and must be done with ease and gentleness, the technique minimizes the tannins and malic acid in the must.
Once pressing is complete, the must is moved to the fermentation containers, this is an important decision to the winemaker, as the container of choice sets the tone of the wine. Stainless steel tanks allow for fermentation temperature control, thus creating crisp wines, concrete tanks and wooden vats are neutral, and oak barrels create more tannins and a hint of vanilla flavor. Once the decision has been made and the must transferred, Sulfur dioxide is added, albeit much less than what is used in terms of red wine production. Clarification is next, the must is usually cooled for a short period of time (to remove any excess sediment) and often fining agents will be added to remove any natural yeast. Lab-created yeast is then added, after clarification is complete, and the the must fermentation is ready to being. Fermentation usually occurs between 50-68 degrees Fahrenheit and usually takes about a month. Malolactic Fermentation and Barrel Aging, are optional in the production of white wine, some choose to do either or both, some simply choose not too, it is simply a matter of opinion for the winemaker. Racking is then done, and finally clarification, and bottling, corking, labeling and shipping.
Similar to white wine production, is the process of sparking wine production, although some changes do occur. Harvesting and pressing are basically identical, and after which, the 1st fermentation is ready to begin, typically in stainless steel tanks. The next step is blending the sparkling wine. This step is intensely laborious and must be proceeded with the utmost care and knowledge, and an excellent palate. The majority of sparkling wines are not made of simply one vintage and quality wines from past years are generally added to the sparkling wine to maintain a level of balance, the result is a non-vintage sparkling wine. Its counter-part, a vintage sparkling wine is made from the grapes of a single growing season, and are chosen only during good years, are expensive and of only the best quality. After all ingredients are incorporated and blending is complete, the wine is bottled, and an ingredient called “liqueur de triage” is added, which is a combination of sugar and yeast that dissolves into the wine.
Once capped, they are placed in a temperature-controlled cooler on their sides. This is the period in which the 2nd fermentation occurs, as carbon dioxide is trapped within the bottle, the wine in turn becomes carbonated. This process generally takes no more than two weeks, and increases the wines alcohol content upwards of 12%. Many wine-produces choose to age the wine, as wines that have been aged have very small bubbles. Once aging has finished, the wine is riddled, which is the working of the dead yeast cells into the neck of the bottle, and then disgorgement, where the wine is cooled to the point where freezing occurs around the dead yeast cells in order to remove excess sediment within the bottle while maintaining high levels of both carbonation and wine levels. The process of production is now complete and the bottles are ready to be corked, labeled and shipped.
Although there are so many different wine production techniques, the three aforementioned give you a great idea of the time, patience, work, and levels of dedication that are put forth in terms of wine production.
The results… are a beautiful thing!