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The first and very important thing. Nowadays, many farms (especially large ones) use special machines for harvesting grapes, this simplifies and speeds up the process. But many still remain faithful to manual harvesting and diligently explain this by the desire to better control the quality of the grapes used for wine production. Although, to be honest, for a small family winery, a harvesting machine is simply an unaffordable luxury. Moreover, such a technique cannot be used in very hilly terrain, where cars simply will not be able to move. Therefore, for example, in the mountainous Priory, like it or not, you will pick grapes by hand.
Harvesting time is one of the main points influencing the taste of the future wine. An all-knowing oenologist (well, or a winemaker, if not to resort to clever words) decides whether the grapes are ripe and whether they can be harvested, analyzes a number of indicators, for example, the content of sugar and acid (there are special devices for this). The time of day for harvesting also matters. In countries with hot climates, grapes are often harvested at night: so workers are less likely to fall from sunstroke, and the berries retain more freshness.
Harvesting grapes during the harvest
The grapes are collected in baskets, most often plastic ones, with holes in the bottom. Through these holes, the juice from the crushed berries immediately flows out, and the grapes do not begin to ferment earlier than expected. But he will still be in contact for some time with the ridges (small branches on which berries grow), leaves adhering to him and sometimes even small pieces of soil, and even insects, which, by the way, is only good for him, because it brings wealth flavors, nuances, a more subtle reflection of the terroir, yes, yes. Although soon all these extra elements will be eliminated. But first, the grapes will be sorted out and sorted, manually or mechanically, to get rid of all rotten, spoiled and unripe berries.
Sorting grapes after harvest
Double fresh please
The grapes, along with ridges and other trifles, will be pressed to squeeze the juice out of it and separate this juice from the skins and the remnants of that very trifle. Previously, it was done manually, or rather, “external” – we recall the canonical scene with Celentano, now the machines are doing the same work.
The semi-solid mass that remains after the separation of the juice is called the pulp, and it contributes to the process of wine production – it is the contact of the wine with the pulp that gives it aroma, richness of taste, and also color for red wines. The whole difference lies in the duration of this contact: for white wines, it counts for hours, for red wines – for days and even weeks.
* White wine. First, the grapes are pressed very gently, only so that the skin bursts, and the already damaged grapes are sent to the press. The juice obtained from it is pumped into a separate container and this juice is allowed to settle so that the suspension and small particles of the skins settle. When the juice has completely settled, it is filtered and pumped into another container, where fermentation will take place, that is, fermentation of the juice and turning it into wine.
* Red wine. Everything happens in the same way, only the pulp is not removed here – the juice is sent to ferment right with it. It is the skins of red grapes that contain the maximum of taste and aromas, they also give the wine their rich red color, because the juice of red grapes is as transparent as that of white (the exception is literally a couple of varieties, for example, the hot Georgian guy Saperavi). So, if you wish, it is quite possible to make a white wine from a red grape variety, although this is still a great rarity.
Fermentation in the masses
The process of converting juice into wine is called fermentation. The essence of this process is the conversion of the sugar contained in the juice into alcohol. A number of factors affect how much sugar grapes will contain and the juice they make from them. Of course, truly ripe grapes will store more sugar than their unripe cousins, and grapes grown in hot areas tend to store more sugar. Well, more sugar means more alcohol percentage. Therefore, making wine with 14% alcohol somewhere in hot Spain is much easier than, for example, in Austria.
Fermentation of grapes
The fermentation itself usually lasts from two weeks to a month. White wines are fermented at a temperature of 22-24 degrees, and red wines – 28-30, since the process itself needs to be made more intense, and the high temperature helps in this. The pulp, along with which red wine is fermented, loves to float up to the top of fermenting wine with a cap, and it is very important to break this cap and immerse it back into the mass of juice so that it does not become greedy and actively shares its color, taste and aromas with it.
Fermentation begins by itself, without any special external influences – natural yeast is on grape skins, and they are activated as soon as they are given such an opportunity. The only unpleasant moment is that the results of such fermentation are difficult to control. Therefore, now more and more popular are special cultural yeast, more obedient and predictable in terms of the result. And where there is a stable result, there is a good income. Winemakers are not all elevated altruists.
If you allow the yeast to process all the sugar into alcohol, you get a dry wine. If you stop the fermentation process a little earlier, some sugar will remain in the wine (as a rule, this is how semi-dry wines are made). To stop fermentation, the vat of wine needs to be cooled – then the yeast will become comfortable and lazy, and they will quickly stop their violent activity. The semi-sweet and sweet have their own technological nuances, which should be discussed separately.
Soon after this, young wine is sparingly rid of the pulp suspended in it (in case it is red wine) and just small particles and filtered using special soft filters. This procedure requires a considerable amount of time and care – too coarse filtration can damage the structure of the wine. And this is an unforgivable sin.
Often this is preceded by a pasting procedure: a small amount of a substance (for example, egg white) is added to the wine, it “glues” the suspension into larger portions, which are then much easier to catch in the filter.
This is Aging
All wines withstand: from very basic to super expensive. The only difference is how long it is kept and in what. For example, simple whites and reds are kept in metal vats for several months – just to let them calm down and “realize” the fact of their transformation into a full-fledged wine. But for solid wines, especially red ones, aging lasts for years, and wooden barrels are already used, and not just any, but made from special varieties of oak, in most cases – French.
Aging of wine in oak barrels
What the wine will be depends on the aging method
* In steel – retains the emphasis on the fruitiness of the wine, its lightness and freshness.
* In oak barrels, it adds richness and complexity to the wine: creamy-bakery notes – white and nutty-woody – red, and also prolongs the life of the wine. Elite reds can be kept in a barrel for 3-5 years, and sometimes even longer, but such a long imprisonment benefits only the most solid specimens, and the basic red will have time to lose all its charms and taste like sawdust infusion.
* On yeast lees – mainly used for white wines. The wine is not filtered immediately after the end of fermentation, but at first it is kept together with the yeast that has done its job for at least a month or two in order to give its taste more depth and intensity. And only then they filter.
If a wine is made from several grape varieties, then each of them is fermented and aged separately and only then mixed in the right proportion and kept for some time (usually several months) in order to “marry” it – that is, to give time to the constituent parts guilt to become one.
A little sulfur dioxide is necessarily added to the vast majority of wines. This is done not out of the winemakers’ excessive love for chemistry, but so that the wine does not ferment and deteriorate and comes to its consumer in its primeval beauty. For the production of red wines, sulfur dioxide is used quite a bit, since the grapes themselves contain a lot of antioxidants; for white wines, it needs a little more, since they are less protected by their own antioxidants.
Wine can be stored in containers for some time, but when it is ripe and the winemaker considers it ready, the drink can be bottled. Now even the majority of small farms use automated conveyors for this.
Bottling wine on a conveyor
After bottling and corking, the wine can spend some time in the warehouse and only then acquire a label, or it can be put on full alert rather quickly and go to store shelves or on a long journey to another country, or even to another continent. … But serious wines spend several years in the cellar before going to their customers – they need a lot of time to get into final shape.
In general, the minimum period from harvest to the appearance of wine on the shelves is about six months. The only exception is Beaujolais Nouveau, but this, sorry, is a completely different story.