Since the invention of agriculture and the discovery of grapefruits, humans have loved to drink wine for how it tastes and makes them feel. In 2020, the United States consumed 33 million hectoliters, making it the largest country to drink wine.
Making wine can be a type of art in itself, but there is also a science behind it. Wines with low-quality profiles tend to have one or two main flavor notes, while higher quality wines have multiple layers of flavors that release over time. High-quality wines give the customer time to taste each flavor, making them more desirable to have.
Depending on the geolocation, soil, terrain, temperature, epoch, and technology, that is how the wine is going to taste. But a standard winemaking process involves five basic steps:
- The Harvest
- Crushing grapes
- Clarification of the wine
Aging and bottling the wine
Step 1: The Harvest
The first step in winemaking is harvesting. It's essential to select the grapes which contain all the required esters, tannins, and acids that make it delicious.
Although traditional tasting methods can be helpful to pick suitable grapes, harvesting the grapes also requires a fair bit of science.
It is essential to make sure that the sweetness and acidity of the grapes are in perfect balance while picking the grapes. Professional winemakers use ph measurements and refractometers to estimate ripe grapes' acidity and sugar levels.
However, to easily pick the best grapes, consider at least these 3 factors:
- Seed and stem maturity. It's essential to look for ripe seeds, and they will be brown and easy to crush. A mature seed breaks more easily when you chew on it. The stems should also be brown or mostly brown at harvest time.
- Color. Color can be a second indicator. However, it should be used with other factors to decide if the grape is suitable to be crushed. For example, for most red wine grapes, a cranberry color indicates that the grape does not fully ripen. For that reason, color shouldn't be the only indicator to decide the ripeness.
- Taste. Tasting the grapes can be an essential factor in determining their ripeness. Some winemakers can pick grapes based on their taste and texture. With practice, you can develop your taste buds to be better at choosing suitable grapes.
Today, the preferred method by vineyards to harvest grapes is by hand. They like doing it by hand because machines can affect the grapes and the vineyard negatively. Also, the process of picking by hand makes it easier to spot any unripe grapes.
Step 2: Crushing
After all the unripe grapes have been removed, and the best grapes are sorted in bunches, the next step is to crush them.
The ancient strategy to crush grapes was known as foot treading. Foot treading can be a solid workout, as it takes 3-4 people a few hours to squish and squash all the juice out of the grapes. Some wineries still allow tourists to crush grapes as part of their tours. However, crushing the grapes by feet is something more from the past.
The majority of the winemakers today crush their grapes with heavy-duty machinery, and they use mechanical presses that trod or stomp the grapes into 'must.' The must that comes out is pure, fresh grape juice straight of the vats. All the seeds' flavors, insides, and skin are mixed together to bring that delicious grape flavor.
Also, the crushing process through machines is more sanitary than doing it on foot. (If you wonder why your wine doesn't have that faint taste of cheese anymore, now you know why!). Crushing grapes with machines has also helped increase the quality and longevity of the grapes.
To do this at home, consider getting a motorized crusher / De-stemmer to save you time. Or, if you are in for the experience, place a dense layer of grapes at the bottom of the pot and then press with a large capacity colander. Stir the pressed layer, add an extra thick layer, crush, mix and repeat.
Step 3: Fermentation
Let's talk a bit of science, shall we?
Fermentation is when grape "must" (a fancy way for referring to unfermented grapes) transforms into wine. During fermentation, yeast converts the grape sugars into alcohol, and the fermentation process doesn't stop until all of the sugar is changed into alcohol.
The final product is a dry wine. However, winemakers will stop the fermentation process before all the sugar is transformed into alcohol to create a sweet wine. The process is commonly done in stainless steel vats, large vats, or oak barrels.
Step 4: Clarification & Filtering
Winemakers know that clarifying and treating their wine with additives will enhance and improve its taste. Winemakers have the option of racking their wines from one tank to the next in the hope of leaving the suspended matter, which would cause the wine to be dull and cloudy. Also, some pomace particles will naturally sit at the bottom of the fermenting tank due to gravity pulling them down.
Filtration is performed with a coarse filter to catch large solids to a sterile filter pad.
Often, winemakers will add clay, egg whites, or other compounds to wine to help precipitate dead yeast cells and other solids out of wine. These elements adhere to the undesired solids and force them to the bottom of the container. The refined wine is then racked into another container, ready for bottling or further aging.
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Step 5: Aging & Bottling
In this process, the aging wine will react to how well steps 1-4 we completed. If the most ripened grapes were harvested, if the grapes were crushed well, if the fermentation process was excellent, and if the clarification process was done correctly, all of those actions would have influenced and improved the taste and flavor of the stored wine over time.
Further aging can be done in a bottle, stainless steel or wooden tanks, or small barrels. The techniques employed in this final stage of the process are nearly endless.
After it's aged, now it's time to drink! Consider getting a Bourbon tasting kit to enjoy your wine without watering it down and compromising its taste.
Related: Aging Wine Underwater
There you have it! That is how wine is made in 5 easy steps. One important quality that isn't mentioned above but that you need to have is to be able to concentrate because even a tiny mistake can significantly impact how the wine tastes in the end.
If you want to make great wine, then you need to follow these steps correctly:
- Aging and bottling
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