Red wine’s color, flavor, body, and character can vary significantly depending on the grape variety used, the environment in which it is grown, winemaking methods, aging, and the producer’s overall tastes. Red wine, unlike white wine, also contains tannins as a result of its prolonged interaction with the tannin-containing grape skins during winemaking, however the amount varies depending on the grape variety and wine type. Here’s a breakdown of the steps involved in producing red wine, giving you an idea of the fundamental methods still in use in vineyards today.
Step 1: Choose The Healthy Vine
To start, in order to grow grapes, you need vines! Certain cultivars could be permitted or prohibited in a given appellation (or wine area). The selection of the vines is significantly influenced by climate. Planting a warm temperature variety, like Shiraz, in a cool climate area, like Burgundy, is pointless. For grapes to be suitable for making wine, vines typically need at least three to five years to mature.
Step 2: Pick It Up
Picking the grapes begins once the seeds have been planted and the vines are loaded with delicious fruit. The harvest season typically occurs between late summer and early autumn in the Northern Hemisphere, while it typically occurs between February and April in the Southern Hemisphere. Whether to pick grapes by hand or machine depends on the vineyard’s topography and desired wine quality.
Step 3: Crushing
Let’s get dirty now. Despite the fact that many vineyards have abandoned the old pre-machine pressing methods, many still get their feet and hands dirty (quite literally). After being collected, harvested grapes are typically subjected to quality inspection before being crushed; some wineries may separate the best grapes from the others and vice versa. They are crushed after being sorted, then smashed some more!
Step 4: Time For Fermenting
Things start to become more scientific at this point. The natural sugars in the crushed grapes are subsequently consumed by yeast, which produces alcohol, in fermentation tanks. The skins are left on, which is crucial for producing red wine since they contribute the color, flavors, and textures that we associate with red wines. Sometimes during this procedure, grapes are agitated using methods known as punching down or pumping over. Grapes are fermented for a minimum of five days at a high temperature of 20–32 degrees for red wine.
Step 5: Press It Hard
The grapes are ready to be pressed five to seven days after they have finished fermenting. The majority of wineries utilize machines to press the grapes, extract the juice, and separate the pulps and skins, however some smaller wineries may choose to accomplish this by hand.
Step 6: Aging
For many people, this is the most exciting step of the creation of red wine and a much more significant stage than it is for white, rose, and some sparkling wines. Wines gain complexity during maturation, primarily due to interaction with oak. Wines are typically aged in enormous oak vats, oak barrels, or stainless steel tanks. Red wines can age for anything from a few months and a few years before being bottled. More expensive wines will often age longer in barrels made of better wood.
Step 7: Mix And Match
The blending process is an essential step in winemaking that is frequently disregarded. This is a crucial time for winemakers to establish their reputations and produce distinctive, flawlessly balanced wines. Red wines from Bordeaux, for instance, are almost exclusively blends of the grapes Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, with sporadic additions of tiny amounts of regional grapes. Numerous bottles we sell at Virgin Wines are custom blends that we’ve created.
Step 8: Packaging
Fining agents are frequently included in the wine-maturation process to add clarity and prepare the wine for bottling. Due to the fact that most fining agents are made from animal products, organic wineries typically skip this step entirely or use natural substitutes. Likewise, vineyards that aim to produce full-bodied wines may skip this step. Red wines, especially those of higher quality, are probably sealed with a cork because wine’s flavor and complexity are enhanced by contact with corks and oxygen, especially if the wine is aged for extended periods of time. Screw caps are typically for red wines that are best enjoyed young, though they are not invariably a sign of red wine of lower quality.
You can see that making wine is no easy task. The process of making wine is laborious and lengthy, and many things can go wrong. The grapes must be harvested and prepared using a lot of pickers and heavy, expensive equipment. Following this, wine makers labor arduously to press, ferment, and mature the modest grape into one of the world’s most popular beverages. Winemaking is a delicate science. Wine makers make alcohol using yeast and sugar using conventional, age-old methods. To precisely age its wine and give it distinctive aromas and textures, it takes years of experience.