The life of wine is a long traveled road before it arrives at your table. This post will take about two legs of the journed: Vineyard selection and Primary Fermentation.
Vineyard selection: The final taste of a wine starts in the vineyard, where the soil delivers nutrients and minerals to the vines, giving each vineyard a unique and distinguishable flavor from year to year. During the spring to early fall growing season, the sun’s warmth and light allows grapes to go from a sour green state of high acid, low sugar to a very ripe state of lower acid and higher sugar. Drier, sunnier climates (like Eastern Washington) and vineyard locations (ie: the South side of a hill) tend to produce sweeter fruit than fruit planted in cooler, more humid climates (ie: grapes planted on the North side of a hill). The grape’s sugar and acid content is critical to both how much alcohol the wine will have after fermentation, and how dry the wine will be after fermentation. Winemakers look for a subjective balance bertween sugar and acid when deciding when to pick.
Primary Fermentation: Wine grapes are run through a machine that removes the stem and lightly crushes them. The remaining juicy flesh, seeds and skins is call the “must”. If a white wine or a rose’ is being made, the must is then pressed within the first 24 hours (depending on the winemaker’s style) to separate the juice from the skins and seeds. The juice is then moved to tanks, vats, barrels, etc (again, winemaker’s style). Yeast is added to begin fermentation, converting the sugar into alcohol. Sulfites can be added (or not) to protect from any oxidation prior to fermentation…or after, but not during. Red wine is made like white wine, except the jujice remains in contact with the skins and seeds during the fermentation process, thus picking up color, aromas, flavor and tannins.
((Next time Malolactic fermentation, racking, maturation, filtering (or not) and bottling