Given the complexities of making it, it is astonishing to know that people have been making wine for thousands of years. Over those thousands of years, winemakers have improved the process that allows your wine to be perfect when it reaches you.
Red wine is made when the skin of a red grape is kept during fermentation. White wine can be made from white or green grapes or from red grapes that have had their skin removed. Rosés are made from red grapes that ferment for a short time with their skins before the skins are removed.
Making the Wine
To make white wine, white or red grapes are put into a crusher-stemmer, which is also called an égrappoir. This machine takes off the stems and crushes the grapes. Chains and hoops also separate out the skin as the must, the raw juice, falls into a trough. The must then enters a fermenting vat. Here, the temperature needs to be kept within a certain range otherwise fermentation will stop. For this, the modern winemaker uses process cooling to keep white wine between 65 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit.
It is during the fermenting process that the winemaker decides whether the wine will be sweet, dry or sparkling. To make sweet wine, they’ll stop the fermentation while the must still have sugar. Sparkling wines are made when the wine is bottled before it finishes fermenting. Dry white wine is made when fermentation is allowed to use up all of the sugar.
Red grapes are allowed to ferment with their skins, and fermentation is allowed to continue until all the sugar is used up. This can take two weeks, and during that time the wine is kept at 77 degrees F. Then, the plug of the fermenting vat is opened and free-run wine is allowed to run out and be placed directly into barrels. To make red wine that matures faster, the wine and skin are separated after a few days and allowed to ferment on their own. The skins are then crushed in a hydraulic basket press. The juice that results from this is called press wine and has a deep color and is very tannic. Winemakers usually mix it with free-run wine. The leftover skins, the marc, are used as fertilizer.
Enjoying Your Wine
According to wine experts, white wine is best enjoyed chilled and in a long-stemmed glass to keep the drinker’s hand from warming it. Red wines are usually served at room temperature, and the glass often has a short stem or no stem and a large bowl for the drinker to enjoy its bouquet. Wine glasses are best served half-full, so the wine can be swirled around without spilling.
A glass of quality wine is a source of enjoyment, especially when you’re celebrating in the midst of friends and family. A good bottle of wine doesn’t have to be expensive. Try several varieties to learn which ones you really like.