Wine making has been around for thousands of years. It is not only an art but also a science. Wine making is a natural process that requires little human intervention, meaning if you put together the right ingredients in the right environment, the process will take care of the rest. However, they say that each wine maker guides the process through different techniques.
In general, there are five basic components of the wine making process:
2. crushing and pressing
5. aging and bottling
Wine makers typically follow these five steps but add variations and deviations along the way to make their wine unique.
The first step of wine making is harvesting the grapes. The time of picking the grapes determines many characteristics of the grapes and subsequently the wine which is made from them.
Although many wine makers prefer to hand-pick their grapes, the harvesting can also be done mechanically. Once the grapes are harvested, rotten and under ripe grapes are discarded.
Crushing and Pressing
Grapes are crushed with two different methods: using body part or using machinery.
The body part is the process of stomping the grapes with feet and crushing the grapes into must. Think about Aitana Sánchez-Gijón in movie called A Walk in the Clouds, crushing grapes with her feet in barrels. It is the old-fashioned way.
Nowadays, most wine makers prefer to use some kind of machinery to crush the grapes. And for that, a mechanical press is being used. This is a more hygienic way, as you can imagine.
After crushing and pressing, the juice of crushed grapes ferments with the help of yeasts added. Fermentation happens when sugar turns into alcohol. Grapes’ individual properties colour and flavour the wine-to-be. Winemakers can step in at this point and add oak fermentation or oak products into the process to further flavour the wine or add structure.
Clarification is the process of removing certain substances like tannins and dead yeast cells. Wine is then transferred into an oak barrel or a stainless-steel tank. Clarification can be done by fining and filtration. During the process, wine is transferred into an oak barrel or a stainless-steel tank and certain substances are added to clarify it. For example, milk, clay, gelatine, egg white or isinglass (sturgeon bladder) are added for unwanted particles to attach to. Then to capture and eliminate the larger particles, the wine is filtered. The clarified wine is now ready to be transferred into another vessel for further aging or bottling.
Aging and Bottling
As a final stage, wine is aged in barrels and tanks to impart some much-needed integration on the various components of sugar, alcohol, grape juice, oak and yeast. Some wines are bottled straight away but some are given additional aging.
Some wine makers prefer aging their wine in oak barrels. The process produces a smoother and rounder wine. During this particular aging process, the wine will be exposed to oxygen which subsequently decrease tannin and increase fruitiness.
After that stage, we come in… as consumers. Because, wine is then ready to be served and consumed with friends and family.