The process of wine making is no easy chore; however, the below explanation will provide a simple, general breakdown of the steps involved. The process is generally the same for both red and white wine with the exception of the moment at which white wine is pressed, which you will see in the below.
This is the point at which the grapes are picked. This takes a good understanding of the quality of the crop. A winemaker must make sure the grapes are perfectly ripe. Here is also where the grapes are sorted. Any rotten or unripe grapes are removed along with cluster parts, and other foreign objects. This can be done by hand or mechanically.
Grapes are separated from the stems and cluster parts. (Some winemakers choose to keep some of the stems in order to increase the tannin content. A tannin is a natural preservative found in the skins, seeds, and stems of grapes, and are what give a wine its bitterness or “bite”.)
This is another step that can be done by hand or mechanically. Grapes are crushed to release the juice from the skin and pulp. During this process, it is important to crush with great care so as to not tear the skins too much. Too much tearing could release too much tannin content or cause over oxidation, which could compromise the wine.
**Note specific to white wine: Because color and tannins become bolder the longer the skins and juice sit together during the fermentation process, a white winemaker will quickly press the the juice at this point in order to separate it from the skins, seeds, and solids.
This is the point at which yeast will turn the sugar into carbon dioxide and alcohol. There are 2 phases of fermentation.
– Primary Fermentation – 70% of fermentation occurs at this phase, and lasts 3 to 5 days. This is when the fermentation vessel is exposed to more open air, which is necessary for the multiplication of yeast cells.
– Secondary Fermentation – the remaining 30% of fermentation happens here, and can take 1 to 2 weeks. Typically, an air-lock is added to the fermentation vessel to reduce the air exposure. This is where the yeast will produce most of the alcohol.
During the fermentation process, carbon dioxide seeks to escape from the juice/seeds/skins/stems by rising to the top, and creating a cap at the top of the fermentation vessel. The winemaker must be aware of this, and either push this cap down, or pump wine out from under and onto the top of the cap.
During this phase, the winemaker can choose to rack or siphon the wine to a new barrel or tank in order to reduce the amount of solids within the wine (as larger particles would have settled to the bottom of the fermentation vessel.) Fining and filtering can also be done at this time. Fining agents are added to reduce the astringency, and remove tannins and microscopic particles. Filtering is the process that removes the fining agents, as well as any other visual particles within the wine.
A winemaker can choose to either immediately bottle the wine, or age it via tanks and barrels.
After bottling, it is then up to the consumer what to do with the bottle. Drink it or age it!