A dining table rarely misses out on a classic bottle of wine, especially during special occasions. A bottle of wine is like a portable time machine that allows people to explore different places and eras. While several delicacies make you feel the same, wines have a distinct taste and flavor associated with its origin and culture.
Wine And Its Beautiful Crafting Process
Essentially, wine is an alcoholic drink derived from fermenting grapes. Any fruit can be fermented and bottled, including apples, plums, and cranberries, but grapes are the superstars of wine.
It’s worthy to note that wine grapes are different from table grapes. Wine grapes are smaller than table grapes and have seeds and thicker skin. The species of a vine called Vitis vinifera are typically used in making wines, with Cabernet Sauvignon being the most common.
People enjoying wine may often find themselves drinking too much. While most can drink in moderation, some people are worried about its calorie and alcohol content. Don’t worry since trying out a low cal wine helps you indulge without feeling guilty.
Since winemaking came into the picture, countries and regions have developed their own way of fermenting wine. In this article, you’ll explore the step-by-step procedure of how grapes are bottled into wines.
Growing Wine Grapes
Crafting wines isn’t possible without these tiny fruits. The art of winemaking starts in planting and growing grapevines, known as viticulture. Assessing the soil and climate is the initial step of planting to determine if the grapes will flourish.
Every type of grapevine and desired wine product requires different growing conditions. However, all wine grapes meet at the same junction: they need abundant TLC, protection, thorough watering, pest and disease control, and proper pruning.
For instance, the famous Cabernet Sauvignon ideally needs warm temperatures and rocky soil to grow. Sauvignon Blanc, on the other hand, thrives better in sandy soils and cooler climates.
Moreover, the planting method also impacts the growth of grapevines. The vineyard manager might blend in other grape varieties, including the “noble” Bordeaux grapes, which are the Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Petit Verdot.
Aside from the soil and climate, growing factors also include the spacing of the vines, row orientation, soil amendment, and other planting techniques.
Harvesting Wine Grapes
As the grapes mature, the perfect time will come for harvest. Vineyard managers know when to harvest them by measuring the grapes’ sugar levels. A telltale indication that they’re ready for picking is when they’ve ripened into plump, juicy, purple-colored clusters.
Then, the ripened grapes are either picked through the following methods:
- Hand harvesting requires a more precise selection. Picking by hand protects the grapes better from skin damage and oxidation.
- On the other hand, mechanical harvesters are faster, more cost-effective, efficient, and advantageous in vast vineyards.
Both methods will leave the stems, leaves, and sticks intact on the fruit, which will be removed in the next steps.
Crushing and Destemming The Wine Grapes
Consequently, harvested grapes will undergo crushing and destemming using winemaking machinery known as a destemmer. This equipment removes the stem and other parts of the plant, except the fruits, and crushes them lightly.
White and red wines have different crushing and destemming methods:
- White Wine: After crushing, white grapes are put into a press to extract its juices and separate them from the skin. After some time, sediments will settle and will be filtered before fermentation.
- Red Wine: Unlike white grapes, red wine grapes will only be destemmed and lightly crushed. The skins are left out before fermentation.
The Primary Fermentation Phase
The fermentation stage is where the magic happens. During fermentation, grapes’ sugar content converts into alcohol, with by-products carbon dioxide and residual heat, which have to be monitored closely to avoid flavor distortion. Fermentation can last from three days to three months.
Additionally, yeast, a leavening agent, is added into both white and red wines to aid the fermentation process. When carbon dioxide is released, grape skins rise on the surface. Manufacturers have to pump over the cap to keep the skins intact.
Aging And Malolactic Fermentation
The previous fermentation process only covers the initial fermentation steps. In this step, the wine flavors, taste, and overall quality can be enhanced through aging and malolactic fermentation.
Depending on the wine manufacturer, they can either use oak or stainless-steel barrels as an aging vessel. Commonly, red wines and Chardonnay complement oak, while Sauvignon Blanc are stored in stainless-steel tanks. Nevertheless, they can experiment with containers according to their desired flavor profile.
Later, malolactic fermentation (ML) occurs in the aging phase. White wines like Chardonnay and all red wines must undergo ML. Also, Chardonnay possesses its unique creamy and buttery mouthfeel because of ML.
Malolactic fermentation happens when the extracts containing harsh malic acids are turned into lactic acid, thanks to lactic acid bacteria. One distinct way to identify if a wine has gone through ML is its smooth, buttery, and more inviting presence in the palate.
On the other hand, if your wine is a full-bodied, acidic one that didn’t undergo ML, the manufacturer simply removes the lactic acid bacteria that causes ML to occur.
Clarification, Fining, And Filtration
During its aging process, solids and precipitates will inevitably settle away from the extracts. In the following steps, winemakers can perform any of these methods:
- Siphoning or racking from one container to another to leave out precipitates called pomace
- Use a coarse filter to separate larger solids, or a sterile filter pad to filter out up to the smallest precipitates
- Fining and clarifying the wine wherein substances such as clay, egg whites, and sulfur are added
Bottling And Packaging
Manufacturers taste the wine from time to time to monitor its flavor profile. The rule of thumb is that older wines taste better. The flavors are usually still unfinished in its sixth month and take one year or more to show its real flavor profile.
Once winemakers are satisfied with the wine’s flavor, the wine is ready for bottling and packaging. When filling the bottle, winemakers top it with carbon dioxide or nitrogen to remove oxygen.
Lastly, the bottle is covered with a traditional cork or modern screw cap. It’s up to the manufacturers to further age them or slap on the labels for distribution.
After bottling these masterpieces, it’s up to people to decide how they would consume them. Today, millennials are reinventing the wine culture, but the wine itself, being classic and timeless, still satisfies the taste of different generations.