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The process of making wine involves six-steps: growing grapes, harvesting, crushing and pressing, fermentation, clarification, and bottling. From the time you pluck the first grape from the harvest to the time a bottle gets its label, this is how the process of making wine takes place.
1. Growing grapes is the first step in the making of this intoxicating drink that in 2002 alone, sold 595 million gallons in the United States. In general, the type of grape you use will determine the type of wine, whether it be a Chardonnay or Merlot. Grape growing is dependant upon conditions of soil, topography, and climate to be just right.
2. At precisely the right time, you will need to harvest the grapes to prepare them for the process of winemaking. The harvesting season varies based on the type of wine and the locale of the vineyard. In the northern hemisphere, winemakers will harvest the grapes between late September and early October. There are two methods of picking grapes – either by the preferred method of hand picking or by a mechanical picker.
3. Mechanical crushing and pressing occurs as the next step to making wine. This process extracts the must or juices, which will soon become wine. In order to make white wine, after crushing, you have to separate the must from the skin and seeds. The process of making red wine involves leaving the skin intact for coloring and flavor during fermentation.
4. Wine fermentation involves storing the must in fermentation tanks, cooled to a temperature of 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Add yeast and sugar to start the process of wine fermentation. The must might be stored in fermentation tanks for as little as less than two weeks to over four weeks time.
5. The next step is clarification. Winemakers will typically store the must in barrels to allow the solids to settle or apply filtration methods to separate out the unwanted particles out of the wine.
6. The final step is the bottling process. One method of getting the wine into the bottle is by using a pump to suction the liquid from storage and into a bottle machine which measures out a predetermined amount into each wine bottle. The machine will seal the wine bottle with a cork. Finally, a labeling machine places the final touch on the product, and it's ready for consumption.
Want to know an excellent location for producing great wines? Home of the wines produced in the southernmost parts of the world, New Zealand produces a small fraction of the world's wines. However, though New Zealand wines may lack in numbers, they make up for it in quality. From New Zealand's Sauvignon Blanc to its Pinot Noir, New Zealand wines are recognized among the elite wines of the world.
Due to New Zealand's diverse topography and climate, the vineyards are capable of producing a wide variety of wines. In all, there are ten main wine growing regions in New Zealand. Most of the wine harvesting in New Zealand takes place in Northland, Auckland, Waikato, Gisborne, Hawkes Bay, Nelson, Wellington, Marlborough, Canterbury, and Central Otago. The timing of the wine harvesting in New Zealand varies by region. In the northernmost areas of Northland or Aukland, where the weather is warmer and more humid, winemakers generally begin their wine harvest between the end of February to the beginning of March. The southernmost area of Central Otago starts its wine harvesting season between mid and late April.
Remember the classic episode of "I Love Lucy" where Lucy is in Italy cruching grapes in a vat with her feet? How would you like to drink some of that wine? Well, no need to worry about that happening to the wine you're drinking these days. The days of picking grapes with your hands and crushing the grapes with your feet are fleeting. More and more wineries are investing their money in equipment which mechanically harvests and crushes the grapes. With the growing demand for wine, wineries are expanding and are finding it difficult to manage the crop by hand. During the two month period of the crush - from September to November - you'll find haresting machines doing all the work that human hands used to do. Almonst 50 percent of wineries have reported that in 2006, they increased their equipment budget. Not only does this help the winery combat the growing harvest, but it also gives them a greater ability to fine tune their wine to their own specifications.
During the winter of the Pacific Northwest states of Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and British Columbia's Okanagan Valley, the winters grow cold and frost develops – the perfect climate for the wintertime harvest of ice wine. Freezing temperatures as early as the fall season can cause a vineyard to lose its crop, but when temperatures fall between 8.6 degrees and 17.6 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter, when the grape has completely ripened, the magic of creating ice wine can occur.
To create the perfect conditions for this wintertime harvest, winegrowers must pluck the grapes in the middle of the night, when the temperatures are right and the grapes have matured and become frozen. Then, the precious cargo is handled carefully and pressed to extract the juice while still frozen. The amount of sugar and flavor found in these frozen grapes are two to three times higher than that of a harvest gathered earlier in the season. Because of the precious few drops each grape yields, it can take an entire vine to create one 375 ml bottle of dessert wine. Even the fermenting process is a slow one, lasting several months until the fermenting process stops on its own.
But the results are worth it. The final result is an intense, sweet wine with the perfect balance of acidity to entice the palette.
After a fine four-course meal, what better way to cap off the evening than with a sweet wine. One method of making a sweet wine is by picking the grape during a late harvest. The late harvest allows grapes to shrivel on the vine and creates a concentration of grape sugars due to dehydration. The method of utilizing a late harvest is common to South Africa, Australia, and Alsace, an eastern region of France.
The Alsace winemakers have a coveted category of sweet wines called, vendange tardive, which must meet five criteria:
1. A declaration of intent must be made the Institut National des Appellations d'Origine (INAO), the governing organization which recognizes the geographic origin of an agricultural product.
2. The grape used to make vendange tardive must be from a single variety and not a blend.
3. The wine must be examined for sugar content by the INAO.
4. The must weight, or sugar concentration, needs to meet exact standards.
5. In order to bear the label vendange tardive, the wine must have a certificate of conformity.
If you're at all familiar with the process of winemaking, then you know it involves weeks of arduous labor and an exhaustive process. For California winemakers, the months of September to November are a busy winemaking period – it's called the crush. The crush is a fitting phrase because for a two-month period, the process of winemaking involves sixteen-hour days, seven days a week. From picking the grapes at precisely the right peak of ripeness to the process of crushing the grapes into wine and then aging the fermented juice in barrels, the crush is by far the busiest time for the operations of a winery. It's no wonder the process involves so much busy labor when the timing of days and even hours can affect the quality of the wine produced.