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The Winemaking Process

"Crafting a glass of fine wine is nothing less than a very intentional, almost sacrificial, act of love."

- Nicole Baart

It's time for the winemaker to take charge and seize the moment.

When it comes to making wine, whether it's white, red, or rosé, the steps are pretty similar. The main thing that changes is the order in which they're done. This is quite interesting; at the end of the day, what determines a wine's hue and tannins is the contact with the grape skins. If you remember from the last couple of posts, grape skins largely give the wine color and tannins. That being said, black grapes can be used to produce red, white, and rose wine, but white grapes by themselves typically only produce white wine.

Ok, so let's start with the five steps of making white wine.

Making White Wines

Step 1: Crushing

Once the grapes are harvested, they undergo the process of crushing, which ultimately leads to the release of some grape juice. In the modern era, grapes are often put into a machine to crush the grapes.

White grapes being put directly into a crusher
Putting white grapes directly into a crusher.

Step 2: Pressing

After the grapes are crushed, they undergo pressing to extract any remaining juice. Here, the grapes are literally crushed. Once the grapes have been squeezed of their juice, the leftover grape skins are removed.

White "Wine" in a glass before fermentation
White "Wine" before fermentation

💡Did you know that before white grapes turn into delicious wine, their juice looks very frothy? Honestly, it kind of looks like the end of a frozen margarita. And depending on the type of grape, it can taste as sweet as candy or as sour as a lemon!

Step 3: Fermentation

After the grape juice is prepared, yeast is added to initiate the fermentation process. This step is carried out exclusively on the juice without the presence of skins for white winemaking. The fermentation process can occur in either oak barrels or stainless steel tanks. The way this process happens can vary based on the type of grapes being used and the techniques and technologies employed. Pretty interesting, right?

White wine during fermentation
White wine during fermentation 📷: Intovino

Step 4: Maturation

After the fermentation process is finished, the wine can either be stored in stainless steel tanks or oak barrels for safekeeping. When maturing wine, there are different options available for winemakers to choose from in order to achieve the desired flavor profile. These choices have a significant impact on the intensity of the flavors in the finished wine.

Barrel aging room
Barrel aging room

Step 5: Bottling

Once the wine has undergone the necessary maturation period, it is then bottled. Most white wines can be bottled in just a few months. Here's a quick video demonstrating how machinery can quickly bottle wines.

Next, here are the five basic steps of making red wine.

In reality, there can be far more than five single steps as the process is quite complex and time-consuming.

Making Red Wine

Step 1: Crushing

Once harvested, black grapes undergo crushing. The resulting juice and skins are then placed in a fermentation vessel; unlike making white wine, the juice and skins are kept together.

Loading grapes into a destemmer machine
Loading grapes into a destemmer machine

Step 2: Fermentation

At this stage is where we start to differ from making white wine. So unlike the process of making white wine, the juices and skins remain together through the fermentation process. When grape juice and skins are mixed together, yeast is added to start the process of fermentation. This causes the extraction of color and tannins from the skins, which are mixed thoroughly with the juice.

Fermentation Tank
Fermentation Tank

Step 3: Draining & Pressing

Now, we can relatively follow the white wine process from here since the wine has achieved its desired color. After fermentation is complete, the newly produced red wine is separated from the skins and pressed to extract any remaining wine.

Process of pressing red wine
Process of pressing red wine 📷:Tripadvisor

Step 4: Maturation

Once pressed, the wines have the option to be stored in either steel tanks or oak barrels. Remember, similar to white wines; winemakers have a plethora of options to achieve the desired flavor profile. The choices they make can greatly influence the intensity of flavors in the final product.

Stainless steel tanks
Stainless steel tanks

Step 5: Bottling

Once the wine has reached its desired level of maturity, it is then transferred into bottles. Dry red wines, for example, are typically matured for 18 to 24 months before bottling. This helps enhance the flavor and character of the wine, making it even more enjoyable to drink with a more complex taste profile.

The process of bottling red wine
The process of bottling red wine 📷:Ridge Vineyards

It's time for Rosé all day.

In reality, rosés are really just lightly colored red wines. So, the process is very similar in nature to the red winemaking process.

Making Rosé Wine

Step 1: Crushing

As with making red wine, after the black grapes have been carefully harvested, they undergo a process of crushing, which allows the juice and skins to be extracted. The juice and skins are then placed together into a fermentation vessel, where they begin the transformation into a delicious rosé wine.

I found this video while doing some research; this really gives light to the incredible range that rosé wines have.

Step 2: Fermentation

The mixture of grape juice and skins undergoes fermentation when yeast is added. This process extracts color and tannins from the skins by thoroughly mixing them with the juice. But, this process is much shorter compared to fermentation for red wines. Often, the grapes are just fermented for a few hours before draining. This allows the juice to appear more pink/blush in color than red.

Step 3: Draining and Final Fermentation

So after a few hours, the juice is separated from the skins, hopefully leaving the desired pink/blush hue. Then the juice then undergoes further fermentation in tanks without the skins.

Step 4: Maturation

When it comes to Rosé wines, you can expect a light and refreshing taste. That's why most rosé wines are not aged in oak barrels, but some may go through a quick maturation process in stainless steel. This ensures that the delicate flavors and aromas of the wine are preserved.

Step 5: Bottling

Rosé wine is bottled shortly after it has been drained or aged for a brief period. Certain rosé wines can age well, but most are best consumed within a year or two of bottling. So, when you buy a bottle of Rosé at the store, feel free to enjoy it as soon as you can!

Bottled rosé wine
Bottled rosé wine

Ok, what's next?

Next, we are going to take a look at the types and styles of wine more in-depth. So, what is the difference between a type and a style? Types of wine are still, sparkling, and fortified. Styles of wine refer to white, red, and rosé.

I really enjoyed studying this in more detail. This really opened my mind up more to trying new varietals and better understanding the unique qualities of each.

Until next time!

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I’m a wine enthusiast. The more wine I drink, the more enthusiastic I get.


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