It's a bummer, but winemakers aren't exactly like the classic episode where Lucy and Ethel stomp on wine grapes. Or, for that matter, they're not Khloe Kardashian or Kendall Jenner, who also stomped on grapes in an episode of "Keeping Up with the Kardashians." Never thought we'd be comparing Lucy and Ethel with Khloe and Kendall, but here we are.
Anyways, back to wine stomping. We're making a logical and sound guess that the reason wine made by feet came to an end was because there were too many injuries slipping on grape skins, like in the classic YouTube video, Grape Lady Falls. It's a shame some people ruin all the fun for everyone!
The upside to this ending is at least you can rest assured when you're sipping on wine that it has never touched another human's feet. (Although we do have a peculiar, unwell feeling that some people would have paid way too much money to get their hands on the grape juice Khloe and Kendall made during their stomping episode…) But, in all reality, how is wine made? Well, it's all one long science experiment that would've made science in high school a lot more interesting. But seeing as that wasn't a part of many highschool's curricula, let's talk about how wine is made!
Wine doesn't magically show up in the grocery store or liquor store. Instead, there are five necessary steps in the winemaking process for all types of wine. You better consider yourself lucky that all you wine lovers only have to do the last and very best step, which is opening a nice cool can, of course. Most wines follow the same basic process, whether that be a classy chardonnay or a cabernet sauvignon.
The five wine production steps are harvesting, pressing, fermenting, clarification, bottling or canning, and enjoying.
Before we get into harvesting, let's talk about deciding when to pick the grapes. This depends on a lot of factors, like the grape variety, region, and wine style. The ripening process is typically between 30 to 70 days after 'veraison.' (veraison is just a fancy word for the onset of the ripening of grapes or the change of color in the grapes)
Now, to the most crucial step in the winemaking process: harvesting. Really, it is quite an ordeal. Honestly, we're exhausted just thinking about the sweat and physical labor that goes into it. Considering we believe it's taxing to get up and refill our water bottle a few times a day, we're going to consider ourselves not in the best harvesting shape.
Red grapes and white wine grapes alike are either harvested by mechanical harvesters or by hand; even with the machines, both ways are incredibly time-consuming. In fact, back in the day, grape harvesting became a big event where people would come together and make a day of it. This is actually still an event you can participate in Napa Valley or other wine counties. We'll stick to the tasting and not the physical labor, but thanks anyway.
Even after all of the grapes are picked, they have to be sorted from rotten or under-ripe before pressing. There's even a specific machine called a de-stemmer to help with this step. Personally, we prefer the "Home Edit" kind of sorting over this labor-intensive work. Can we talk about their rainbow organization? So beautiful, we're inspired.
Back to the point: when are grapes harvested? It depends on where the grapes are located! In the Northern Hemisphere, winemakers are busy harvesting somewhere between August and October, while in the Southern Hemisphere, winemakers are getting their harvest somewhere between February and April. While these are the general time frames, grape harvesting can occur any month of the year because of the many various climates, grape varieties, and wine styles. So unlike seasons that come and go, winemaking is all year long, and we're here to support its hard work!
This is where Lucy and Ethel would have helped. Or the Kardashians, if that's the fantasy you're dreaming. Pressing is the process of extracting the juice from the harvested grapes. Because we're here to enrich your knowledge of wine and wine production, we'll share that wine stomping by feet actually goes by the term, "grape treading." Grape-treading was actually a legitimate way to make wine. But, with the introduction of industrial methods, it now only survives as a recreational activity or sometimes even a competitive activity at cultural festivals.
Today, instead of using people's feet, winemakers use a mechanical press, or crusher, that is more sanitary and improves wine's quality and longevity! We should note that there are many different style presses used by winemakers, but their functionality is overall the same.
Pressing does differ based on the type of wine being made. In white wine, pressing takes place immediately before fermentation. In contrast, red wine grapes get crushed and then are pressed at the end of the fermentation process. This is because, for red wine, the grapes' skin needs to be in the process as long as possible. In rosé wine... Well, who knows?
The fermentation process is where the real magic happens. This is the process in which grape juice is turned into an alcoholic beverage. Can you say yum? The real champion of the fermentation process is yeast. Why? Because it essentially acts like grape juice's fairy godmother and transforms the juice's sugars into ethanol and carbon dioxide in stainless steel tanks to establish the wine's sugar levels. Sometimes, this is where winemakers use those fancy oak barrels that we're always hearing about, too.
The fermentation process differs depending on how sweet the winemaker wants to make their wine. In sweet wines, the winemakers stop the fermentation process before the wild yeast eats up all of the sugar, leaving a little residual sugar content. In dry wines, the natural yeast goes to town and eats up all of the sugar; therefore, the wine has very little sugar and is, as we said, dry.
Now that we have the beginnings of an alcoholic beverage, winemakers use clarification, sometimes called fining, to remove material in wines created by the chemical reactions in the fermentation tanks, like dead yeast cells, various tannins, bacteria, pulp, tartrates, and pectins. Yeah, the bottom of the tank can get pretty nasty. Can we get a hallelujah for the clarification process?
There are many different ways winemakers clarify wine. Sometimes, this even involves the use of egg whites or a funky ingredient called bentonite. Apparently, not all chemical reactions are created equal.
Bottling… or canning :)
With the beverage clear of all the yucky chemical reactions, it is ready to be put into cans and wine bottles. If you're going with bottles, this is where racking comes in. As a top of the line wine that comes in a can, we're going to capitalize on this opportunity to share the perks of having wine in cans. Not only are they perfect for the beach and summer picnics, but they're also an excellent alternative for those of us who don't drink beer. Especially Bev that is low in carbs and zero sugar. Portable, single-serve, and perfect for sipping and going.
After writing all this, we're going to go ahead and pop open a can, whether it's red wine or white wine, to celebrate how much work everyone else did for us to enjoy it! And we have a good idea for you: join us in the celebration!
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