Winemaking 101

If any of you are looking for a reason to drink wine tonight (other than the fact that it's Wednesday)- this is your lucky day. I would like to inform all of you that today is 'National Drink Wine Day' (it's a real day I promise) so I encourage all of you to open a bottle of something delicious tonight whether it be by yourself watching Nashville (you know you watch it) or with some special person/people in your life. Cheers to you :)

Now that we've covered the basics of tasting- let's talk about the actual process of wine making. I'll try to keep this short, however, I do think it's important to have some general knowledge of wine production to really appreciate what you're drinking. Wine is totally dependent on seasons and the seasonal characteristics that define each year. Factors such as rain, sunshine, humidity and frost have a big impact on grape yield and the final product. If we break the viticulture (growing of grapes) down by seasons it would look like this:

Spring- In early Spring the vine will start to emerge and buds will appear. This is also known as bud burst. Frosts can be a problem during this time of year. 

Early Summer- Ideally the temperatures will be warm and dry to encourage vine flowers which transform into tiny bunches of grapes, or fruit set. After this, the vine will continue to develop for the next three months.  

Summer- Grapes start to ripen and take on color, sugar levels increase and vine management takes place. Vine management is necessary to get rid of excess leaves so that the grapes receive more sunlight. 

Autumn- HARVEST! When the winegrower decides that the grape is completely ripe, the picking process begins. This is a very important decision as the ripeness of the grapes determine things like acidity, alcohol level and sugar level in the wine. 

Winter- The vines are now dormant and are being prepared for next years burst. 

Now we want to focus on viniculture, or the making of wine. Once the grapes are picked, they are de-stemmed and pressed. The juice is moved to tanks to allow an initial fermentation to begin. Fermentation occurs when sugar and yeast react to create alcohol and CO2. This is a natural process that occurs when skins are broken and the juices are exposed. White wines are fermented without their skins while red wines are fermented with their skins to give the wine both color and flavor. The length of time a wine is fermented depends on the sugar level in the grapes as the goal is to get the alcohol to the appropriate level. A rose is a red wine made in the style of a white wine. The skins stay in contact with the grapes for up to a day which gives the wine its pink color, then the juices are pressed and transferred to ferment. Almost all red wines (and some whites) will undergo a secondary fermentation in another vessel. Most commonly, this will be stainless steel or oak. Sparking wines will undergo their secondary fermentation in a variety of ways to give them their bubbles...more on that to come in future posts! 

I know that was a lot of information that might have been super boring for some of you to read. But I wouldn't be doing my promised duty to you without giving you at least the basic fundamentals of winemaking. Now, I promise you, we are moving onto the fun stuff. To make up for this super wordy post, read on to the next post for a special Wine Wednesday supplement, if you will, to get you through the weekend. Enjoy!