The Wine Making Process
Winemaking is both an art and a science, combining the physical process of fermentation with the creative hand of the winemaker. The fermentation process for all wines is fairly straightforward: yeast is added to grape juice; the yeast consumes the grape's sugar and converts it to alcohol, carbon dioxide, and heat.
While each grape variety has its own identifiable characteristics, it is the winemaker who creates the style and personality of the finished wines. There is no fixed "recipe" for making Chardonnay or Cabernet Sauvignon -- only general guidelines.
The winemaker acts as a guide, using a variety of techniques to best express his or her style in each wine. These following stages depict the fundamentals of winemaking; within this framework exists the winemaker's options.
For every vintner, harvest time is the crucial moment in the grape growing cycle. Grape clusters are harvested into boxes or bins and delivered to wineries in open containers called gondolas. The Grapes can be harvested either by hand or by machine.
Upon arrival at the winery the grapes are conveyed to a de-stemmer/crusher where leaves and stems are removed and the grapes are crushed. White wine grapes usually bypass this process and go directly to the press for whole berry pressing.
After de-stemming and crushing, the grapes and their juice are put into stainless steel tanks, where alcoholic fermentation takes place. Tanks can vary in size between 50 to 5000 gallons. Most red grapes go directly from the de-stemmer/crusher into tank for primary fermentation (the conversion of sugar into alcohol and CO2). Most white grapes however are pressed prior to fermentation to remove the skins and seeds. Some white wines are fermented in small oak barrels for added complexity and flavor. The fermentation process is kicked off by the addition of yeast to the crushed grapes and juice. Some winemakers prefer to utilize the native yeasts that are present on all grapes; this process makes for a longer slower fermentation.
After fermentation, the wine is sometimes put into oak barrels where it continues to development until bottling. Oak barrel aging adds complexity and additional flavor components to the wines, while stainless steel tank storage retains the fresh fruit character of the wine... After barrel aging and prior to bottling, some wines are fined and filtered to help stabilize and clarify them. Some wines are not fined or filtered.
Bottling is the last stage in the production cycle. Wines are bottled in a sterile environment, and sealed with a variety of closures including natural cork, screw-cap or man-made cork. After bottling the wines usually are allowed additional time for aging in the bottle before making their way to market.