vine to wine guide

Basic Wine Making Process

red grapes

While most people know that grapes are grown not just as a food, but harvested and turned into wine, the process is not quite as widely understood. The actual grape to wine making process is really not that difficult once you learn wine making basics. That said, you must be strict in following the steps to ensure success, poor hygiene for example can lead to tainted wine and wasted effort.

The right equipment needs to be used and can usually be easily obtained from a wine making supply store. Much of the equipment is often made from plastic or stainless steel for easy cleaning and hygiene reasons. 

Once the grapes are harvested they will have to be crushed or 'pressed' to release the juice which would then be stored in plastic or metal vats. What method you use to press the grapes will to an extent depend on the quantity of grapes you have but simple hand operated presses upward are available. There is no exact rule but you are looking at about 13 pounds of white grapes to 16 pounds of red grapes per gallon of wine as red grapes are tougher and yield less liquid.

The resulting grape juice is stored in a vat that should be no more than two-thirds full when all of the grapes are crushed. You will need to add the appropriate amount of Campden tablets which ensure the wine doesn't spoil during the wine making process, more will have to added before bottling.

Wine yeast is added to the liquid to begin the fermentation process. Note that bread yeast and wine yeast are two different things and should not be substituted for each other. Montrachet and prix de mousse are common types of yeast used to ferment wine. The crushed grapes at this stage are known as the must. Use your hands to stir in the yeast. Comb through the must and remove the cluster of stems. Straining and the fruit pulp at this stage will remove stalks and other impurities. When the fermentation is underway after a couple of days you should notice the liquid bubbling. This continues as the fruit sugars are converted into alcohol and will last about a week.

The next step is to strain the liquid into a sterile glass carboy, also available at wine making shops. From this moment on the wine should not be allowed to come into contact with the air. An airlock needs to be fitted to the carboy to prevent air from getting into the container but which allows gas to escape.

Within about two to three weeks in the container the bubbling of the liquid will subside. Now you will need to rack the wine. This means removing the wine from the lees which is the spent yeast and grape bits that have sunk to the bottom of the container. A syphon is the only way to perform this task as it allows you to draw off the liquid without churning up the sludge at the bottom which is exactly what you have to avoid to ensure a clear wine. Afterwards pour the wine back into the original container and about two to three months later the wine is ready for a second racking.

After a period of around three to four months after that, perform a third and final racking. Wine can be aged in a cool, completely dark place. At this point, the wine is able to be tasted but, the longer a wine ages, the better it is. While this is just a basic overview of the wine making process there much more involved but it is not difficult. Learn the process fully and you can have an enviable wine cellar.