After the harvest, once all the fruits have been picked and gathered, do you know what happens? What are the steps and techniques to obtain wine out of fruits? Winalist gives you a useful lexicon of the art of winemaking, in order to understand the vocabulary and the challenges of the wine industry.
During this step, the harvested fruits are sorted and removed from the grape peduncles. If they are crushed and macerate with the fruit, they will give the wine a bitter herbaceous taste. Some winemakers prefer to keep “a whole harvest”, that is to say, grapes and peduncles, to bring more freshness to the final beverage. Afterwards, some wineries run a second sorting, to select only the finest grains before grinding.
Grinding and pressing
Following the harvest, this step is similar to all wine colors and only its duration differs. If you leave a red grape’s skin and pulp in contact, the juice that you will obtain will be red, because the tannin that the skin contains has a strong coloring power. However, if the grinding step is short, the juice does not have time to get colored, that’s how we can get pink and even white wines from red grapes. Today, winemakers use machines for grinding and pressing the grapes. On the one hand, it breaks with the famous traditional image of people trampling the fruits barefoot, but on the other hand, it’s a significant gain of productivity and hygiene. The mixture obtained from the pressed berries is called the grape must.
This is when the grapes sugar converts to alcohol, which is called “alcoholic fermentation”, and when malic acid converts to lactic acid, which is called “malolactic fermentation”. The latter, also called MLF or malolactic conversion, reduces the acidity of a wine, increases its stability and suppleness. The fermentation begins a few hours after the fruits have been picked. This natural process is hard to control so that most winemakers prefer to add selected yeasts to better monitor the amount of sugar and the acidity of their future wine.
Clarification and stabilization
After fermentation, the wine isn’t finished yet, it still needs to develop and fix its aromas. During this phase, a physicochemical transformation occurs. Taking place at the winery cellar, this step sees different technics and is often divided between clarification and maturation. For nouveau or “primeur” wines, the maturation step before bottling is optional.
This step is used to clean the wine and count many techniques.
Racking is a technique without adding inputs to the drink. It is simply based on wine decantation to remove unwanted deposits. The moment of extraction is determined by the tasting. The wine goes from cask to cask with an intermediate aeration for red wines, so that the tannins develop the aromas and the red color is fixed. Cloning can replace this intermediate aeration: the winemaker introduces a small amount of oxygen into the tank if he tastes that the wine reduces too much. Indeed, when a wine has reduced too much, the complex taste disappears in front of a growing whiff of rotten egg or cabbage, because of too much exposure to oxygen. Stirring also fights against wine reduction. Mainly practiced on white wines, this technique makes the deposit particles, called wine lees, come back up in suspension into the liquid, so that they don’t oxidize. Winemaker used to stir the wine with a stick, hence the French name of this technique “bâtonnage”, bâton meaning stick.
Fining or Bonding is a skipped step in natural winemaking, which gives such a wine its turbid aspect. For conventional wines, fining is conducted by introducing a substance in the fermenting juice so that its wastes gather in bigger clusters, which makes it easier to filter them later.
Filtration, this steps concerns 95% of wines, and it aims at removing yeasts and bacteria, which will allow the wine to remain stable once bottled.
The winemaker can store his wine in stainless steel or ceramic tanks, or in wooden barrels, jars or bottles. The choice of the container has a significant impact on the final taste of the wine. According to the consulting oenologist in Beaune Kyriakos Kynigopoulos “clarification and stabilization accounts for a third in the success of a red wine development, and for half of it for white wines”.
Aging is the bottle maturation. It can happen at wineries or in individuals’ cellar. Only the long-keeping wines can claim such a step, the nouveau wines being made for a quick tasting!
Even if they follow similar stages, winemakers techniques vary from wineries to wineries, but everyone keeps his or her recipe secret. Now you know what’s going on between the vine and the bottle on your table, and Winalist hopes that you won’t get impressed by a few technical words on the wine anymore!
Also published on Medium.