In the past, wine was a luxury that only the wealthy and affluent in society could afford. Today, however, just about anyone can buy a bottle of wine. That said, not all wines are great wines because like many other things today, the more expensive ones will 90 percent of the time taste better than the less expensive ones. This is because in the world of winemaking and consumption, the more wine ages, the more its taste and aroma improves.
For people who are new to this space, it may sound absurd because naturally with most things, especially edibles, the longer they stay uneaten, the more their taste and value depreciates. However, with wine, the reverse is the case, and you’ll get to find out why later in the article.
To be fair, winemaking should be considered an art and here’s why. In any artistic endeavor, things like paintings, sculptures and other artistic objects are usually unique to the artist or creator. That is, when two artists are given exactly the same materials to create an art piece, they will most likely come up with completely different pieces. This is also the case with winemaking. You see, most wines are made from vine grapes but, regardless of that fact, winemakers still manage to produce wines that vary significantly in taste and aroma. This reason alone is sufficient enough for winemaking to be considered an art form. Click here to learn more about other fruits that can be used in wine making.
Wine prices vary significantly today. Usually, these prices are influenced by the winemaking process, the quality of grapes used, and of course, the age of the wine; which is the major factor that determines the price of really expensive wines. You’ll find it interesting that some people purchase certain wines that have aged really well as investments, although, it isn’t very common.
How is wine made?
Several processes go into winemaking and each process is as important as every other one because they are all needed to churn out wine that people would be willing to pay for. These processes include but are not limited to:
- Juice separation
- Aging and bottling
To make wine that stands out, wineries make no compromise. From the first process to the last, all is done with precision and a sharp attention to detail. That is why only the best mature grapes that are harvested fresh from the vines are used. Although this is the case for many wines, some are made from pre-mature grapes due to the lack of sufficient heat to complete the natural ripening process.
These premature grapes usually have less sugar content than those allowed to ripen and mature on the vines. Nonetheless, this sugar deficiency is made up for by artificial methods.
As earlier mentioned, winemaking is done with precision and impeccable timing to get that electric taste common with good wines. Grapes are to be harvested at just the right time to avoid making wines with low and high alcohol. The former happens when berries are harvested prematurely, while the former occurs when wine berries are harvested late.
Once these grapes are harvested, they are conveyed to a winery where all the other production processes will be carried out. Upon arriving at the winery, grapes are tossed into crushers or pressers depending on the type of wine to be made.
This is the process that allows the pulp of the berry to interact with the skins. As the berries are crushed, the juice mixes with the tannins, yeast, and other elements of the skin that aid the fermentation process.
In traditional winemaking processes that were employed a long time ago, the grapes were first destemmed manually before they are crushed by stomping with the feet. Interestingly, some wineries in this day and age still make use of this traditional process. These are wineries that have huge respect for traditional winemaking techniques and have decided to hold on to them.
Modernized wineries today, however, use machines like the crusher-stemmer for this process. This machine simultaneously destems the berries as they are crushed. It is much faster and is employed by wineries that produce large amounts of wine for commercial purposes to save time and minimize effort.
Crushing is largely responsible for the color of wine and partly for its taste. When white wines are produced from red berries, the grapes are pressed to limit the level of contact the juice has with the skin. This is because if the juice is allowed to mix strongly with the red skins of the grapes, as done in crushing, it will pick up the red color of the skin and will no longer be suitable for white wine production. Also, the crushing and pressing should be done gently so that the seed does not break and mix up with the juice. This is because grape seeds contain tannins and if allowed to mix with the juice will result in a weedy “green plant” taste. Visit https://www.masterclass.com/articles/learn-about-wine-what-are-tannins lo learn more about tannins.
Juice separation can be done in several ways. One way is by pouring the crushed musts (freshly crushed juices) in a container that has a false bottom and sides, and is designed for the sole purpose of draining juice. This type of juice is called the free run juice. Another is by the use of the Willmes press. This machine is largely used in the production of white wine.
The Willmes press majorly consists of an inflatable tube and a perforated cylinder. Juice is extracted from this machine by inflating the tube, which presses against the musts thrown into the cylinder. The pressure exerted by the tube on the musts forces the juice out through the perforations on the cylinder. This juice separation technique is fast and efficient and requires very minimal human supervision.
This is the wine making process where the sugar in the grape juice is turned to alcohol with the aid of yeast. Some wineries allow their juice to ferment naturally with the help of wild yeast in the air, while some prefer to make use of strands of yeast they choose personally. The latter do so because the process of natural fermentation is sometimes unpredictable, however, by inducing the fermentation process artificially, they are able to predict the outcome.
The fermentation process continues until all the sugar in the juice has been converted to alcohol. This process may last for as long as 30 days or more depending on the winemaker’s preference. In the case of sweet wine, fermentation is made to stop before all the sugar converts to alcohol. It is worthy of note that the alcohol level of wine is not determined by the length of time taken for the fermentation, but by the sugar content of the juice.
During clarification, unwanted elements like proteins, tannins, and dead yeast cells are taken out of the juice. Clarification can be done in wooden barrels made from oak or in stainless steel tanks.
Aging and Bottling
As stated earlier in this article, the flavor, aroma, and value of wine appreciates the older it gets. With time, the rest of the unwanted substances that remained after clarification gradually precipitates. It is advised that the aging process be carried out in wooden barrels as they have been found to aid the escape of water, oxygen, and alcohol.
Bottling of wine is done carefully and precisely to ensure little or no oxygen gets into the bottle. To prevent air from flowing into the bottle as it is being filled, wineries employ the bottom filling method. This method basically involves filling a bottle with an inserted tube. Also, wines are bottled by first passing carbon dioxide through the bottle before it is filled.
The shelf life of a bottle of wine is largely determined by how well it is stored. Proper storage is very crucial in retaining the taste and aroma of wines especially if they are to be kept for aging. For regular wine consumers who wouldn’t care less about wine storage, a refrigerator will do just fine.
For more serious wine enthusiast, storage in wine cellars with glass doors may be more appealing as these cellars are kept at the right temperature for wine storage, and also, the transparency of the glass doors is aesthetically pleasing.
In wine storage, the following should be kept in mind:
- Keep it cool, but not too cold
- Maintain a constant temperature
- Keep the lights off
Keep it cool, but not too cold
Wine can easily be destroyed by hot temperatures. Temperatures above 700 F have been found to cause wines to age faster than desired. This quick aging results in flat flavors and aromas. Ideally, wines should be stored in temperatures between 450F and 650F.
That said, wines should not be stored in temperatures below 450 F as this is likely to dry out the cork which may lead to air seeping into the bottle and compromise the quality of the wine.
Maintain a constant temperature
To store wines for longer periods while keeping it intact, ensure there is no extreme temperature fluctuation as this not only cooks the flavor of the wine, but also causes the liquid to expand and contrast, which in turn results in seepage or outright ejection of the cork. As much as possible, ensure that the temperature is consistent.
Keep the lights off
Most forms of light, especially sunlight, may pose serious problems for long-term wine storage. The ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun causes wine to age prematurely and degrade. This is why winemakers use colored glass bottles for storage. This helps to protect the content of the bottles from dangerous UV rays.
A lot goes into winemaking and that is why its taste is different from regular beverages and also why they cost more. Speaking of prices, the prices of wines vary depending on their type. Usually, champagne is known to cost more than most other types of wines. For long-term storage of wine, it is recommended that more professional techniques be utilized as these techniques can help to preserve wine in peak state for as long as 50 years.