In its simplest form, winemaking is the process of liberating the juice of a fruit, fermenting the sugars into alcohol, cleaning the new wine and putting it into a bottle. However, the raw materials used and the way this is achieved will greatly affect the results.
While wine can be made out of any fruit, grapes are by far the most common and a major characteristic influencing the type of wine, is whether the grapes have red pigmentation (red grapes) or not (white grapes). With a few exceptions, red grapes make red wines and white grapes make white wines. The extraction of these red pigments (known as anthocyanins) affects the wine making process and by describing the process for red wine separately to that of white wine, much of the complexity is removed. Other types of wine include sparkling wines, desert wines, ports and sherry's.
Winemaking - Red wine
Like the type of wine, the style of a wine within that type, varies. A common style of red wine is that of a "dry red wine" and this style can be further broken down according the "body" of the wine, namely full bodied, medium bodied and light bodied. Whereas, wine making differences between white and red wines vary, not only with the equipment used and/or the in order in which it is used, the style of a wine is largely driven by the variety and quality of grapes used.
Explaining wine making processes at a stylistic level, more often than not allows wine making processes to be explained, compared and contrasted under a standard set of process headings. This is interesting as it gives a base understanding to why wines are different, but before this can be tackled a basic knowledege of the red winemaking process is necessary and for illustrative purposes the wine making process has been described for Pinot Noir (red) grapes.
The first operation is to record and weigh the fruit; this provides the basis for tank allocation and additive addition rates. The grapes are then destemmed and transferred to the fermentation vat whereupon they may, or may not, go through a pre-fermentation maceration . Fermentation may be induced by the addition of yeast or rely on indigenous populations, with this largely determined by winemaking philosophy. Fermentation is the conversion of sugars to alcohol by yeast. By-products of this process are carbon dioxide and heat, both requiring management, in the form of plunging for carbon dioxide and cooling for heat. Once all the sugar has been converted to alcohol, the new wine may or may not be given a post-fermentation maceration . The medium is now warm and contains around 14% alcohol. Extraction of skin components is largely focused on tannins . Again, the length of this stage is largely dependent on winemaking style but can also be influenced by winery logistics (using tanks multiply time per season). The wine is next separated from the skins and transferred to a settling tank, whereby fermentation solids are allowed to settle out. The skins are pressed to extract the remaining wine. Pressed wine may be combined with free run wine. After settling the wine is transferred to barrel where it remains for approximately 10 months. During this time it undergoes a secondary fermentation, which converts the harder malic acid, into the soft lactic malic. Upon completion of malolactic fermentation, sulphur dioxide preservative is added and just prior to the new vintage the wine is finished (fined and filtered) prior to going into bottle.
Now that we've learnt a bit about winemaking, let's discover what's involved in designing a great winery.