Wine for Beginners: How Wine Is Made

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Before a delicious bottle of wine reaches your hands, the winery follows a meticulous procedure to ensure you get the quality of wine you expect every time.

Though different kinds of wine are made in various ways, they essentially follow the exact same process of wine making.

What makes the most difference when making wine are the grapes themselves and how long they age.

First, where do these yummy grapes come from?

Italy and France produce the majority of the grapes worldwide. In Italy, there are more than one million vineyards under cultivation and grapes are grown in every region of the country.

In France, wine is also produced everywhere, with seven primary regions that are sometimes used in wine names: Alsace, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Loire, Provence and the Rhone Valley.

(By the way, right now the United States is the fourth-largest wine manufacturer. Spain is the third.).

Oh, and want to know which nations drink the most wine? You might be stunned …

It’s the United States, No. 1 since 2011. Since 2019, the United States drinks 13 percent of world wine production. France and Italy are # 2 and # 3, respectively.

Wine has been produced for thousands of years. Archaeologists have found illustrations of grape seeds on walls of ancient caves.

They think that wine was created mistakenly, when wild yeast somehow mixed with saved grape skins, and fermentation happened.

While wine makers have their own techniques and methods, there are five primary steps in producing wine. These are used whether red or white wine are being made.

STEP 1 IS HARVESTING:

The procedure begins with the harvesting of the very best ripe grapes. Vintners go by season and old-fashioned taste-testing to identify the best time to harvest.

When they decide the time is ripe (pun intended), some vineyards use mechanical harvesting, while some vineyards use people to manually collect.

Manual harvesting is preferred because the mechanical harvester can be hard on the grapes and the vineyard.

Collecting is usually done early in the early morning so that the cold does not ruin the natural juices of the grapes during the harvest.

After the grapes get to the winery, they’re generally sorted to eliminate grapes that are under or over-ripe.

STEP 2 IS CRUSHING AND PRESSING:

The gathered grapes are removed from their stems and crushed.

The time-honored technique that a lot of us recall seeing in old movies is stomping the grapes (making them into a “must”).

Today a much more sanitary and mechanical approach is used, employing specialized presses.

This hastens the procedure, enhancing the quality and longevity of the wine while decreasing the winemaker’s need for preservatives.

Squashing and pushing is where the winemaking process starts to vary for red and white varieties.

For white wine, the wine maker must quickly separate the juice from the skins, seeds, and solids, because the color is determined by the skin of the grapes. Red wines are left in contact with grape skins so they absorb the color and flavor.

FERMENTATION IS STEP 3:

This fermentation (conversion of sugar into alcohol) is what transforms mashed grapes from mere juice into delicious wine.

Fermentation can take place naturally when wild yeast in the air interacts with the juice. This is impossible to predict.

Most winemakers introduce a strain of yeast into the “must”, which kills the wild natural yeast and is more likely to produce the desired outcome.

Fermenting usually takes about ten days to a month. The sugar content of the must is what makes the alcohol level vary between locations.

If fermentation is allowed to finish, the wine is dry. If fermentation is stopped before all the sugar has been converted into alcohol, the wine is labeled sweet.

STEP 4 IS CLARIFICATION:

After fermentation is completed, the wine needs to be filtered and refined, because there are often precipitates and solids (called “pomace”) in the bottom of the fermenting tank.

This is done by siphoning wine from one barrel or tank to another and using various kinds of filters.

Sometimes wine makers add substances such as clay or egg whites, which adhere to the undesirable solids and force them to drop to the bottom of the tank (where they can be filtered again.

AGING AND BOTTLING IS STEP 5:

The last…

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