As Labor Day Weekend is fast approaching, let’s take a deeper look into the world of winemaking.
Wine makers must answer an array of questions to produce a distinct and delicious vintage, making the process both an art and a science.
There’s a lot that goes on between growing the grapes and bottling the wine. Let’s take a peek into the labor intensive world of winemaking through five most common steps:
Step 1: Harvest the grapes
Harvesting is more than just picking grapes. Wine makers must decide how much human interaction the grapes will have. In other words, will they be hand-picked or picked by machinery.
Additionally, not all grapes are picked during the daylight. In warmer climates, it’s common for grapes to be harvested at night. This is so workers who are hand picking grapes can beat the heat, and wine makers can be sure to capture the grapes while they’re at stable sugar levels.
Once picked, grapes must be sorted by hand for quality. Remember, it’s entirely possible to make bad wine from good grapes. Leaves and rotted or raisen-like grapes are removed from the bunches.
Step 2: Crush the grapes
The grapes are now ready to be completely de-stemmed and crushed. Grape clusters are put through mechanical de-stemmers which do exactly what they say: de-stem.
Crushing the grapes was traditionally done by men and women stomping grapes with their feet. Nowadays, there is more modern machinery for this task. The resulting freshly pressed grape juice is called ‘must’.
White wines are crushed much more quickly than the reds, and then immediately pressed to separate the juice from the skins. This is to minimize the amount of time the seeds and skins are in contact with the juice. For red wines, the seeds and skins are left during fermentation to add flavor, color, and tannins to the wine.
Step 3: Ferment the juice
Wild yeast can ferment the juice, however, most wine makers prefer to intervene to have more control over the fermentation process, and ensure desired results in the wine.
During fermentation, sugar is converted into alcohol. This can take anywhere from a week, to a month, or longer.
When fermenting red wines, carbon dioxide is released, which causes grape skins to float to the top of the fermentation tank. To keep the skins in contact with the wine for added flavor and tannins, and prevent growing bacteria, the red wine is repeatedly ‘capped’ or turned over multiple times daily.
Once fermented, red wines are pressed, removing the skins and seeds from the wine before aging.
Step 4: Age the wine
Wine makers have important choices to make at this stage. Different aging procedures will impart different intensities of flavor in the wine.
The wine can be bottled right away and left to age, in oak or stainless steel barrels. The source of barrels (American or French oak) or whether the barrels are new, used or toasted (charred), all have an impact on flavoring the wine.
Typically, aging in oak will produce a smoother, more mellow wine. Stainless steel tanks are commonly used to age crisp white wines.
Wines can be aged anywhere from 6 months to several years before bottling.
Step 5: Bottle the wine
Another step in the process that can be done either by hand, or entirely by machine. To seal the wine, a choice of natural or synthetic cork, or screw caps. Finally, labels are added, and the wine is boxed and ready for sale.
(Step 6: Enjoy the wine!)
You’ve made it to our favorite step in the process!
As you can see, wine makers have many duties managing their grapes from vine to bottle. A day in the life of a wine maker can range from performing quality control, blending decisions, hosting tastings, marketing, selling, and everything in between.
So what’s the secret ingredient that makes a bottle of wine taste just so good?
A whole lotta love.
And, maybe a little blood, sweat, and tears. 😉
As you enjoy your wine this Labor Day Weekend, remember to raise a glass to the wine making artists and their teams who made it possible.
Stop by your local WineStyles store to stock up for the long weekend! Cheers!
View store locator here.
Thanks for reading,