Monday, June 15, 2009

A disorderly guide of explaining the process of making red wine

I wanted to make a disorderly guide of explaining the process of making red wine.  A little unruly so I can sneak in as much info as I can into a small writing space. Like Coltrane’s ‘Sheets of Music ‘! Now I am losing you…

The reason I want to do that is because making red wine can be technically intense…and there is so much information… but somehow to the average eye it doesn’t look that way. If you catch my drift..Anyways, I hope you get the point.

Here we go.
First the red grapes are picked and the grapes are then taken to big containers and crushed. Sometimes with the stems removed and sometimes not.  At this time a little sulfur may be added as a disinfectant. But it’s not always done. The crushed grapes, juice skin and seeds are then pumped into a big tank.

Note*** If you are making white zinfandel you add sugar at this point to make things sweeter (this is called chaptalization)The French do not like this…

Oh, and by the way unfermented grape juice is called ‘Must’(Rose wine only goes up to this point it only spends the crush time with the yeast). Any unused ‘Must’ becomes ‘Marc’ which I explain below…

Now, Yeast is added and fermentation begins.

Sugar plus yeast  =  alcohol plus CO2(Oh! Carbon Emissions, can you believe it!)

Just so you know…when alcohol content goes up to 14% the yeast dies and winemakers especially in California like to tinker wth the alcohol levels.
Just so you know…the ripeness of the grapes comes from the photosethysis of the sun.

Fermentation continues until all the sugar is gone. About 14 days.

Malolactic Fermentation can also begins now or you can do that later or not at all.  Basically you are stirring things up againto ferment some more (to turn the feel of the wine from apple juice to milk, I know that sounds weird but think of how each feels in your mouth when you drink it).
After the liquid is fermented, you take the skin caps and pump them over the fermented liquid which helps ‘extract’ maximum color.

Now you get to the ‘Free Run’ point or as the French would say “Vin de Goutte”…

You let almost all 4/5 of the wine run out of the vat(tank) without pressing it into the barrels. The other bit you press and you squeeze. The French call this “Vin de Presse”. The liquid is deeply colored and tannic(a dry sensation like tea or walnuts it makes you pucker up).This "Vin de Press" stuff is kept by winemaker for blending into the ‘free run’ after barrel aging. So the winemaker can tinker with his juice!
The left over stuff that's not used. The last bit of dry pressed skins is called ‘Marc’ and can be use to make Brandy, a distilled spirit or it makes great fertilizer! How about that !?!

Finally the wine is racked from one barrel to another and it can be filtered further if the winemaker wants to  idealize the juice.

After it’s all said and done and the wine is in the barrels for the determined time…it is then bottled.
There you go! An undersized and unconstrained explanation on how red wine is made.