From Baskets to Barrels: The Process of Winemaking
What is there to know about the process of winemaking?
- Understanding red wines
- Understanding white wines
- Learning the steps
Ever wondered how your favorite wines from your alcohol distributor are made? Before your preferred wines in Manila are brought to their shelves, they start their life as grapes from a vine. If you’re curious about how grapes turn into your favorite alcoholic drink, then we’ll give you a rundown on what happens in the process of winemaking. Read on below:
Red wine such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir are made from red grapes. These wines get their color from the skins and seeds of the red grapes during the fermentation process. Only red wine is fermented with the grape skins and seeds; though there are exceptions to this process. Blanc de Noirs, a type of Champaign is made with red wine but the process of making this wine is similar to how white wine is made. The result is a red wine that takes on a white color.
Typically, red wines are aged in oak barrels, but there are other containers that red wine can be aged in potted jars and concrete containers to name a few. This aids in bringing out the rich and earthy taste of red wines. But wines that come with a floral or flowery flavor are aged in stainless steel containers. Aging wine is steel containers is a common aging method used for white wines. Red wines are known for their soft, velvety, rich, and earthy flavors. This is a result of the aging process. Winemakers make use of oak barrels, potted jars, and concrete containers to increase the oxygen in the aging process for the wine to ingress oxygen.
White wines such as Chardonnay and Pinot Gringo are made with white grapes. Unlike red wines, white wines are pressed off their skins and seeds before fermentation. This process removes the traces of color from the grapes. Though there are some white wines that can be made like white wines; and the result is a reddish orange wine. The taste of white wines that are aged in oak barrels is nutty and creamy.
Compared to red wines, white wines are not typically aged in oak barrels. White wines are usually aged in stainless steel vats. White wines are processed with little to no oxidation to preserve their acidic, zesty, floral, and fruity taste. These stainless steel tanks will always ensure a flowery or fruity taste in wine.
Today, due to the advancement of technology and modernization, some grapes from vineyards are picked with the use of machines. Of course, most vineyards pick their grapes by hand. Picking grapes by hand can ensure that the harvesters can choose the best grapes to maximize the quality of grape batches for the wines.
The sugar levels of grapes may vary depending on the climate and other environmental factors. That’s why some harvesters may choose to pick either during the day or night. Choosing the grape picking time during the day or night will help maximize efficiency and capture the grapes at ideal sugar levels. During the stage of picking, the grapes will still be attached to their stems. The stems and leaves will be removed at the beginning of the crushing process.
Once the grapes are gathered, they will be prepared to crush. The process of crushing for red wines and white wines differ from each other. Here are the differences between the two in this stage:
To crush grapes for red wines, the grapes are destemmed and lightly crushed. Then the whole grape; together with their skin and seeds, go straight to the vat. This will be the start of the fermentation stage. Fermenting the grapes with their skins and seeds gives the red wines their color.
Once the white grapes are crushed, they will be transferred into a press. To extract the juices from the grapes. This process when making white wine leaves the skin and seeds behind. After which, the pure grape juice will be transferred into a vat for all the sediments to settle at the bottom. Once all the sediments have settled, the juice will be filtered out and transferred to a settling tank to ensure that all no sediment remains in the juice.
Fermentation is an essential part of winemaking. During this process, the sugar content of grapes will be converted into alcohol. There are many different ways to ferment wine. Especially in this day and age, new and different technologies aid the process of fermentation of winemaking. For both red and white wine, yeast is added into vats for fermentation to take place. From then on, the process of red wine and white wine will differ.
The process of fermentation for red wines begins when a yeast culture starts to take place. The yeast culture will grow and consume the sugar and convert it into alcohol. To control the flavor of the wine, different yeast strains will be used. What’s interesting is that the yeast strains could be added manually or happen naturally.
Red wine fermentation is done under warmer temperature compared to white wines. The process of fermenting red wine involves the yeast consuming all the sugar content. This is the reason for red wines with a dry taste. During this whole process, the release of carbon dioxide will cause the grape skins to rise to the surface. Winemakers must pump over or punch down the cap several times during this stage to keep the grape skins in contact with the juice.
To preserve the flowery and fruity flavor of white wine, they must be preserved in cooler temperatures. This is typically done in stainless steel vats. For white wines, 2-parts of sugar ferments into 1-part alcohol. The higher the sugar content of the grapes, the higher the alcohol content will be produced for the white wine.
As mentioned earlier, white wines will be pressed right after crushing. But red wines are pressed after the fermentation process is complete.
Red wines are typically aged longer than white wines. For red wines, they may be aged between 4 months to 4 years. White wines may only be aged for a few months. Winemakers have different ways and methods to go about the aging process of wines. But their techniques will all depend on the wine they want to create. Here are a few aging techniques that winemakers often use or take into consideration:
- Age wine for years or months
- Age wine in oak barrels, concrete containers, pots, or stainless steel vats
- Age wine in new barrels or neutral barrels or used barrels
- Age in “toasted” barrels
The final stage of the winemaking process, bottling the wine is a decision made by the winemaker if he/she thinks that the wine has reached its full expression of aging. During the aging process of red wine, fining may occur in order to achieve a clearer wine. After fining, the wine is filtered and ready to be bottled. Though not all red wines are fined or filtered. Unfiltered and un-fined wines have much more body. On the other hand, white wines are typically filtered before bottling.
The whole process of winemaking may take several months to years. Winemakers will always do their best to craft the best wines for you. Before they get into the hands of your country’s alcohol distributor, your favorite wines in Manila go through all of this fruitful transformation. If you want to purchase some of the best wines in the country, just click here!