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How to make wine

For many, the “how” of growing and making wine is confusing at best, intimidating at worst. But a little exposure to these processes can be hugely empowering in better understanding wine.

Winemaking is a science and an art, and it would be a disservice to the craft to suggest it’s simple. For the sake of education, however, there are a few main stages that are important to know. Here are some of the key processes that happen from grape to glass.

  • 1. Harvest

  • Grapes are picked by hand or machine and brought into the winery. Choosing the optimal time to pick is one of the most important decisions made to ensure balanced grapes. Picking can take place early or late in the harvest season, and at night or during the day.

    Harvesting wine grapes
    (above left): Hand-picking pinot grigio grapes @souhmahwines. (above right): Harvest in action @goldenchildwines. 

  • 2. Sort and destem

  • Leaves, sticks, bugs, and stems are cleared away, leaving pristine fruit (although sometimes the berries are left on their stems for “whole bunch” ferments).

    Sorting wine grapes
    (above left): Inspecting the just-picked shiraz @jimbarrywines. (above right): Grapes on the sorting table @harkhamwines. 

  • 3. Crush

  • Typically a piece of equipment called a destemmer will remove the grape stalks and then lightly crush the fruit in preparation for fermentation.

    Crushing wine grapes
    (above left): Crushing pinot gris grapes @timadamswines. (above right): Tempranillo being crushed @sittellawinery. 

  • 4. Press

  • At this stage, the solids are separated from the juice. With reds, this step happens following the fermentation on skins, while whites are most often pressed right after crushing, eliminating the skins and so the colour from the wine. After pressing, the liquid gets “settled”, allowing any sediment to settle at the bottom of its container before being “racked” or filtered from the final wine.

    Pressing wine
    (above left): Freshly pressed semillon juice @whicherridgewines. (above right): Wine for a sparkling blend @delluvawines. 

  • 5. Ferment

  • This process sees sugar consumed by yeast and turned into alcohol. Checking temperature, sugar and alcohol levels is essential at this stage.

    Fermenting vats of wine
    (above left): Vermentino and malbec ferments. (above right): A ferment that bubbled up overnight. Both @koernerwine. 

  • 6. Punch down and pump over

  • Red wine ferments require punching down or pumping over the “cap”, which means stirring the skins and seeds back into the juice when they rise to the surface of their container. 

    Pumping over and plunging the cap of a fermenting wine
    (above left): Punching down pinot, image by @tigesthewinemaker. (above right): Pumping over shiraz @ballycroft. 

  • 7. Age

  • Ageing wine in different vessels (stainless steel tanks or oak barrels of various sizes, origins and ages) for varying lengths of time can vastly influence the style of the resulting wine.

    Ageing wine in barrel
    (above left): Prepping the barrels @goldenchildwines. (above right): Maturing wine in barrel @matriarchandrogue. 

  • 8. Bottle

  • Whether after a couple of months or years, wine is bottled and then sealed (under screwcap, cork or crown seal).

    Bottling wine
    (above left): Bottling rosé @turkeyflat. (above right): Labelling bottles @noisyritual. 

  • 9. Enjoy!

  • Now that you know the influencing factors, can you taste how your wine might have been made?

    Celebrating with wine
    (above left): @sittellawinery celebrating nearing the end of vintage. (above right): An end-of-vintage party @noisyritual. 

    Continue exploring the process of winemaking in the April/May issue of Halliday magazine.