The process of making wine is not as complicated or difficult as you may think. A simple recipe, some patience and time are all that it takes to get started. Take a look at this guide for help in getting your own batch of bubbly goodness underway.,
Making your own wine is a great way to save money and enjoy a variety of flavors. There are many ways to make wine, but the most common method is by fermenting fruit juice with yeast. The process takes around 6-8 weeks. Read more in detail here: how to make your own wine brand.
Note from the editor: This is a guest post by Matthew Nagy. In California, New York, and New Zealand, Matthew worked as a vintage winemaker.
Let’s be honest. A strong scotch or a terrific stout conjures up an image of manliness that wine seldom can. However, many of history’s great men have savored and reveled in a fine glass of red or white wine. Men have been drinking wine for thousands of years, from Caesar and Louis XIV through Jefferson and Franklin.
We’ll go through the fundamentals of production for both professionals and amateurs in this first part of a two-part series. In part two, we’ll go over the fundamentals of wine knowledge, such as important areas, histories, and styles, so that you can talk intelligently about the subject and make confident purchase and tasting selections.
It all starts with the Earth.
The land where the grape is cultivated, like all things that come from nature, is the single most significant part of our trade. The French call it terrior, that little something extra that elevates a decent wine to greatness. True, science cannot explain why wine from one area may and will taste better than wine made from grapes cultivated 100 yards apart, but human taste senses do not lie, and discernible distinctions can often be observed. Apart from soil, temperature, rainfall, and humidity are the three other important factors that influence the quality of wine. Working in New York is quite different from working in California, and the same Merlot seed planted in both places might produce very different outcomes.
The procedure begins in early winter. All of the past year’s fruit-bearing branches are pruned down to the rootstock so that new vines may emerge in the spring. We prune so that we can manage the amount of growth of each vine from the start, ensuring that the quality of the fruit we produce remains consistent.
After a long period of dormancy during the cold of winter, spring is perhaps the most critical season for the plant. The flowering of the vines, which will ultimately become the bunches of grapes that will yield the wine, occurs in the spring. This is known as the fruit set, and it is at this time that rainfall and temperature may wreak havoc on the year’s production from the start. Excessive spring rain may cause latent mildew spores to develop, which will remain dormant until the autumn, when they can flourish in the late heat or rain and harm the quality and taste of the fruit arriving to the vineyard. A strong frost on the East Coast during fruit set might block the development of almost half of the grapes-to-be, resulting in a vintage being ruined by May. The milder springs, which bring fewer frosts and less rain than the eastern shore, are one of the reasons why California and the West Coast in general have seized control of the American wine market. Another advantage of living in California is that the summers are devoid of humidity (which produces mildew and mold) and rain (too much rain causes the grapes to saturate with water and lose their flavor concentration). The absence of these factors makes the summer a relatively stress-free period in the vineyards, with just canopy control required until harvest.
Harvest is the single most important and difficult period of the year for any vineyard or winemaker. As the fruit begins to arrive and the delicate process of fermenting begins in earnest, the hours get longer and days off become non-existent for months at a time. Almost all wineries select their grapes in the same order: sparkling wine first, then whites, and finally reds. Because sparkling wines are fermented twice, they are harvested with somewhat greater acid levels than other white wines. This allows them to withstand the extra sugar of the second fermentation while remaining crisp and not too sweet in their final form. Because white wine grapes achieve full maturity quicker than red wine grapes, the ultimate product has a lower alcohol content than most red wines produced today. The more time grapes spend growing on the vine, the more sugar is present in each fruit. Sugar is the same as alcohol when it comes to fermentation.
Without going into too many technical specifics, fermentation is the process in which yeast, either added to the juice or naturally present, turns the sugar in the grape juice into ethanol and carbon dioxide gas. The quantity of sugar that can be transformed in this process is directly proportional to the maturity of the grape, and this is one of the most important considerations in deciding when to harvest.
Managing the input of fruit into the winery is one of the most difficult aspects of harvest. If you harvest too much fruit at once, you’ll run out of containers to put it in, but if you harvest too slowly, the grapes left on the vine will succumb to rot and overripening, effectively turning into raisins. So, during harvest, our goal is to bring the fruit in as soon as possible while preserving the greatest possible quality. At the larger wineries, days lasting more than 15 hours each shift, or even 24 hour rotations, are usual. Consider the following harvest timetable for whites and reds:
- The fruit is first brought in and sorted to remove any damaged grapes, leaves, or agricultural trash.
- The second stage in making white wine is pressing all of the juice out of the grape clusters. When creating white wine, you want to keep the amount of contact between the liquid and the grape’s skins, seeds, and stems to a minimum. This is where tannin comes from, and when white wine is made into wine, it may have harsh and bitter overtones. In red wines, on the other hand, tannins are desired, so instead of pressing the juice straight away, it is placed in a tank with all of the skins, seeds, and stems to macerate together and extract tannins.
- Allowing the juice to settle at a cool temperature, allowing last pieces of dirt or other impurities to drop to the bottom of a tank, is the third stage in making white wine. After that, the juice is pumped into a second tank. The juice is pushed out until the sediment is reached and the juice no longer flows clear, at which point the silt drops to the bottom. After that, the juice is clean and ready for fermentation. This is referred to as “racking” the wine. This stage is avoided since the red wine has been soaking in its skins and seeds.
- Both the crimson and white juices are now ready for their fermentation processes. Some wineries may inoculate the juice with cultivated yeast to guarantee a stable fermentation, while others will rely on the indigenous yeast found in the winery and vineyard to complete the task. It is entirely up to the winemaker to decide which route to take, and they will do so based on the sort of wine they are producing. In both red and white wine, fermentation may take up to a month or more.
- White wines are “racked” off of the sediment formed during fermentation once fermentation is finished, leaving clean wine ready to be aged. The remaining trapped juice, seeds, stems, and everything else (the must) will be pressed and sorted into wine subsequently utilized for blending, and red wine will be emptied clean out of their tanks.
That’s the basic harvest procedure, and after it’s over, it’s straight to the barrel room to mature the wines and give the winemaker and his team some much-needed relaxation. This whole procedure might last as little as two stressful months or as long as four or five months.
Patience is a virtue that should be cultivated.
During the harvest, Matthew keeps an eye on the white wine fermentation in barrel.
The barrel aging process starts after everyone has rested and enjoyed a vacation. Many white wines, such as Sauvignon Blanc and lighter-styled Chardonnays, may skip this process and instead rest in a stainless steel tank until they are blended and bottled. However, for certain whites and virtually all reds, the next stage is to age them for 6 to 18 months in French, American, or Hungarian oak barrels–longer in exceptional situations. When the young wine is exposed to wood, the tannins in the skins are softened, and the taste of the barrels is imparted to the wine.
Many aspects are examined while choosing a barrel, including cooperage, place of origin, and whether or not the barrel is deemed “fresh.” The distinction between “old” and “new” barrels is, in fact, the most essential factor in barrel choosing. A fresh barrel, in the eyes of the winemaker, is one that has never been used before or is brand new from the cooperage. The ancient barrels are referred to as “neutral” since they don’t add any wood characteristics to the wine. The ratio of new to old barrels has a significant impact on the kind of wine produced.
During this time of year, the majority of the labor in the cellar is spent topping up barrels to ensure that they are full, preventing oxidation and ensuring that the wine is properly sulfured. The principal preservative used in wine is sulfur gas or liquid, which prevents oxidation. The focus will shift back to the vineyard this time of year for pruning, fruit set, and canopy management until it’s time to blend and bottle.
The Outcomes of Our Work
Unlike good scotches, which are nearly always single malt or even single barrel, the best wines are frequently a combination of the best fruit and vineyards that each winery has access to. Even though it says so on the label, almost no wine is produced entirely of a single grape variety. Wine is evaluated and tasted separately from each barrel or barrel type. The best scores will be considered for the top flight blends and tasted and combined until everything is absolutely perfect on the winemaker’s tongue and nose after being graded.
For winemakers, having a wonderful palate and nose is like having the golden goose, and the ability to blend brilliantly and consistently can make or break a reputation. Smaller vineyards may spend a small fortune to hire a renowned winemaker to counsel on each vintage of wine they produce, often paying him over six figures for just a few days work.
After the mixes are complete, the messy and tedious labor of filtering and bottling begins later in the summer. The bottling of a previous vintage will often coincide with the commencement of the new harvest, marking the end of the winemaker’s year.
I hope you liked this winemaking primer. Part two will cover the many styles, varietals, and areas of the wine world, as well as how to begin tasting and enjoying the rewards of our labor.
Making wine at home is easy with a “make your own wine kit.” The kit includes everything you need to make your first batch of wine.
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