The Making of Wine
Wine is made from the soil up. It all starts with the planting of the selected varietals in the perfect location for that combination of root stock and clone of the varietal chosen. During the year, winegrowers manage everything from water to sun, exposure to battling pests, to racing to harvest before the rain. Once the vines have produced ripe and harvest ready fruit, the fun begins.
First, a crew goes through the vineyard and harvests the fruit and brings them in by bin to the winery. Once there, the grapes are sorted for quality and then often allowed to macerate, or soak for a day. The heavier grapes on top “gently” crush the grapes below offering what we call “free run” juice. This takes on the minerals and other flavors from the skins during maceration, giving a wine its flavor and color.
Then, the free run juice is separated into a tank for fermentation and the remaining grapes are crushed to extract the juice. Most wineries use a combination of “crusher de-stemmer” to remove anything but the grapes at this point in time. This juice is then set into a tank for its initial fermentation.
Initial Fermentation occurs when either yeasts are introduced to the juice or the natural yeasts on the skins of the grapes begin to eat the sugars, excreting alcohol. This entire process may take just a few days or as long as a month, depending on what the strain of yeasts used and what the winemaker is trying to accomplish. A shorter fermentation maintains the freshness of the fruit and a longer fermentation creates complexity.
Once initial fermentation is complete, some wines are ready for bottling, while others go through what is called malolactic fermentation, which is the change of the malic acid to lactic acid. Malolactic fermentation is often done in barrels over the course of months and adds complexity and viscosity to the wines.
Once malolactic fermentation is complete, the wines will be fined or filtered to remove unwanted sediments and returned to the barrels for more ageing in the cellars. This is called racking and may be done numerous times before bottling. When a wine is being racked, it is taken from the barrels and put into tank while the barrels are being cleaned of the excess matter. This is the normal time for a winemaker to start to taste each lot of juice and begin formulating the final blend for the wines.
After anywhere from 3 months to 3 years in the cellar a winemaker will make a final blend and tank that blend for a number of days or weeks until bottling. Once a wine is bottled, it generally goes through “bottle shock” and needs some time to settle down. This may take anywhere from 3 weeks to 6 months depending on the wine.