Winemaking is both an art and a science, combining the physical process of fermentation with the creative hand of the winemaker. The fermentation process for all wines is fairly straightforward: yeast is added to grape juice; the yeast consumes the grape?s sugar and converts it to alcohol and carbon dioxide and heat.
While each grape variety has its own identifiable characteristics, it is the winemaker who creates the style and personality of the finished wines. There is no fixed recipe for making Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, only general guidelines.
The winemaker is the guide using a variety of techniques to best express his or her style in each wine. These following stages depict the fundamentals of winemaking; within this framework exists the winemaker’s options.
For every vintner harvest time is the crucial moment in the wine’s vegetative cycle. Grapes are harvested into boxes or bins and delivered to wineries in open containers called gondolas. Grapes are harvested either by hand or by machine.
Grapes are conveyed to a stemmer/crusher where grape leaves and stems are removed and the grapes are crushed. Some grapes may bypass and go directly to the press for whole berry pressing.
After crushing and de-stemming, the harvest is put into the fermentation vats, which may vary in size between 50 to 5000 gallons, where alcoholic fermentation takes place. Most red grapes go to the fermenter for primary fermentation (the conversion of sugar into alcohol and CO2) while most white grapes are pressed prior to fermentation. Some white wines are fermented in small oak barrels. Yeast is added to start fermentation.
Some winemakers prefer to utilize the native yeasts that are present on all grapes.
After fermentation and the wine is racked off, it is sometimes put into oak barrels where it will continue its development until bottling. More and more producers are using new oak for barrel ageing, while others are kept in large stainless steel tanks. After barrel ageing and prior to bottling, some wines are fined and filtered to help stabilize and clarify them. Some wines are not fined or filtered.
This is the last stage before the slow and relatively lengthy ageing process. Wines are bottled in a sterile environment, and sealed with a natural cork, screw-cap or man-made cork.