Many of you love to drink wine, but do you know what it takes to make it? There are many different recipes for making wine, and plenty of different processes, as well as opinions. A big factor in wine making is harvest time. It really does make all the difference when it comes to making specific wines. The ripeness of the grape will determine such things as acidity, sweetness, and alcohol level. Before the wine is even made, the viticulturist chooses the moment of ripeness when the grapes will be harvested. Harvest is considered the most crucial part of the wine making process. Pick your grapes too early and you have higher acidity, lower alcohol levels, and greener flavors and aromas. It's not an easy task to undertake when you have to take into consideration the difference in climates, where the vineyard is located, and the variety of grape that is being grown.
It's not just a matter of tasting the grapes to see if they're ripe. Such things as pH are tested as well, making the viticulturist something of a scientist. The more mature the grape is, the sweeter. During the fermentation process, the more sugar the greater the alcohol content will be. That's not to say that early grapes are a bad source for wine. Varying levels of ripeness make for different kinds of wine. The style of wine made is dictated by the level of sugars and acids within the grapes. To a winemaker, however, you don't simply make wine, you create it. Each winemaker has their own methods, theories, and recipes that are kept closely guarded.
Wine Making Maceration
Let's move on to maceration time and cold soaking. Maceration time or "skin contact" is how long the grape skins remain in the juice as it turns into wine. Whatever the length of time, this is called maceration time. The concept of cold soaking is when the grapes are kept cold while soaking to help pull out more color and flavor. The idea, here, is to keep the yeast from forming for a period of time so that it doesn't begin to ferment quickly and begin to become alcohol before the desired color and flavor is attained. This process also helps in avoiding an abundance of bitter tannin from being pulled from the skin.
When it comes to aging the wine, some winemakers prefer to use traditional oak barrels and some prefer to use steel tanks. The biggest difference between the two methods is oxygen exposure. When wine is aged in oak, the wine is exposed to more oxygen. Oxygen decreases tannin and decreased tannin allows for a fruitier wine. Wine, that's been aged in oak, over many years, also develops a nutty flavor. Oak definitely adds more than just the vanilla flavor that you may have heard about. Steel tanks are another matter. These allow less oxygen to get to the aging wine and also keeps it fresher. The tanks allow for zestier and juicier wines such as Pinot Gris.
Wine predates the Romans and has been around for thousands of years, and it will continue to be made for thousands more. It has found its way through the ages from country to country and has leaped across the seas. Wine is written about in every religion and has left its mark in history forevermore.
"The peoples of the Mediterranean began to emerge from barbarism when they learnt to cultivate the olive and the vine." - Thucydides, Greek Historian 460B.C.
This article is sponsored in part by Elegant Wines West Island.