What is Wine Making?
This process of converting grapes (which are in solid form) into a wine (which is the drinkable version) is just not an art but rather a science. Through science and old-fashioned wine tasting, the right grapes are harvested with the right time and the right acidity, sweetness and flavors achieved. The steps involved in the process of winemaking would be; harvesting, crushing and pressing, fermentation, clarification, and aging and bottling.
Learn how to make your own wine at home as well in “How To Make Wine At Home“.
What is Fermentation?
Fermentation is an important component of winemaking. It is the third stage in the process. Here, cultured yeast is added to the already crushed and pressed grapes. Essentially, the natural sugars in the grapes (with the aid of the yeast) are converted to ethanol and carbon dioxide, which is alcohol. This happens within the first ten days to a month or sometimes longer.
Fermentation can either be cold or warm. Warm fermentation (of between 26-37 °C) is usually done to red wines with an aim to increase color an tannin while cold fermentation on the other hand (between 6 – 10 °C) is done on white wines to preserve the delicate aromas in them that are likely to be lost under higher temperatures. Therefore, the temperatures, oxygen, and speed of fermentation are important elements to be considered in the must (the raw and fresh grape juice containing seeds and skin) at the beginning of the fermentation process.
Fermentation could either be done in bottles or in oak barrel tanks and stainless-steel tanks. Some wines are fermented in the bottle while others are bottled after fermentation. Check out our piece on bottling wine and impress your friends from a little help from “How to Bottle Your Wine Like a Pro“.
The two key components in fermentation are yeast and sugars. Alcohol levels in wine are determined by the sugar levels in the grapes from which they are made. The sweeter the grapes, the more there is for the yeast to work on and the higher the alcohol content and vice versa.
Be sure to also read “Be Aware Of These 6 High Alcohol Content Wines” to see which wines out there have higher alcohol content than others.
Some Oak Barrels for Wine Fermentation
Steps in Wine Making
Regional differences in grapes (which are the key ingredients in winemaking), harvesting dates, fermentation temperatures, maceration contact, and a wine maker’s touch or experience are the most important elements in determining the resulting flavor of the wine.
Of these factors, the time and stage at which grapes are to be used is by far the most crucial bit in the entire winemaking process. It also happens to be the first step in the winemaking process. Early and premature picking of grapes will result in a higher acidic, lower alcohol content, bitter tannins, and green flavors and aromas while delayed grape picking will result in a low acidic, heavy (higher alcohol content) and more subtle tannin.
Pressing and crushing the already manually harvested grapes is the second step in winemaking. The grapes are mechanically pressed to form must (the raw and fresh grape juice containing seeds and skin). This is the same product that subsequently undergoes fermentation. While the red wine must is left to ferment as raw as it is (with all the seeds and skin), white wine is quickly separated from the seeds and skins to prevent leaching of tannins and color.
Fermentation is a component of the winemaking process. Skipping this critical step means there is no wine at the end of the process. Red and white wines are subjected to different fermentation temperatures and speeds to yield the desired alcohol contents and wine qualities.
A winemaker’s touch, the type of grapes used, the season they are harvested, fermentation temperatures, maceration contact and the length of time wine is left to age dictate the quality of wine produced. Let us know in the comments below if you’ve tried making wine at home before. Check out “Supplies You Need to Make Homemade Wine” for a guide to supplies you’d need if making wine at home.
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