Wine information > Wine making process

Wine making process

Wine is the fermented product of the grape.

The essence of the process of wine-making is
as follows:

The grapes are collected and the juice pressed out either by treading or by more or less developed mechanical contrivances.
The juice or 'must' ferments which is to say that the sugar in the grape juice, is converted into alcohol. The chemistry of fermentation the action of yeast is a complex matter.
It is sufficient here to say that it is a bacteriological
process in which living micro-organisms increase and multiply, needing the active cooperation of oxygen from the air.

The primary fermentation therefore takes place with free
access to the air. The young wine is run off into casks or vats which are covered from the air for the secondary fermentation, in which the wine, at this stage a turbid liquid, clears by
throwing a deposit.

After a few months the bright wine is racked that is, separated from the deposit into a clean, sulphured cask. Not yet clear enough, it is 'fined' by the addition of white of egg or gelatine which, combining with the tannin in the wine, makes a further deposit and also carries down suspended particles.

Variations of the essential process are employed, according to the character of the wine to be produced. In from two to four years the wine is mature and ready for bottling, as in the case of
the Burgundies, Clarets, Champagnes, Hocks, etc., or for further maturing in the wood as in Port and Sherry.

It may be worth while here noting the terms 'natural','made' and 'fortified'.
natural wine, such as the still wines of France, Germany, and Italy, are wines whose diverse characters mainly depend, not on special process, but (as all wines, including these, of course, depend) on character of vine, soil, aspect, climate, and vintage weather.

They are matured according to the 'natural' process generally described above and untouched thereafter.

The made wine or manufacuctured wine, such as the sparkling wines, Champagne, etc., have added to them a liqueur consisting of fine winebrandy and sugar in greater or lesser quantities.

These classifications are not absolute. For instance, there is occasionally added to Burgundy in the cuve a certain proportion of fine sugar if there be disclosed a deficiency of that factor in the `must.' But this rather by way of making up a known deficiency from the normal, not by way of absolute addition. The deficiency
was found to render the wine unstable, hence the curative treatment.

The fortified wine Port and Sherry are treated with an addition of wine spirit which, checking the normal process whereby the sugar in the grape juice is converted into alcohol, leaves the wine characteristically sweet to a greater or less degree as determined by the discretion of the makers.

These wines are also "blended' and 'coloured.' The colour in
honourable wines is made by boiling down wine till it is a dark, thick liquid; it is obvious that less expensive and less wholesome additions can be made* by unscrupulous makers of inferior wine. Of course, the main colouring of Port, as of the natural red wines everywhere, is from the colouring matter in the black grape skins. But the longer Port is kept in wood the lighter it becomes, and to demand, as the English market has constantly demanded, old Port of a deep colour has necessitated refreshing old stock with newer full-coloured, full-bodied wine. Fashions in colour (an unessential) have, in fact, had much to do with the modification of much fine wine to its disadvantage.

It may be truly said that the general terms, Claret, Burgundy, Sherry, etc., are much too general to denote specific quality. The genius of wine really lies in the particular grape used.

Every kind of vine gives a distinct character to its product, and the most celebrated wines are made from distinct varieties of grape. Wine from the Palomino grown at Xeres is very different from the Mantico castellaizo grown in the same district, and the term Sherry does not adequattly cover the two wines, and so of the various French wines classified by district or group terms.

It is interesting to note that the temperate climate with high summer temperature is the best for wine-producing. In the cold countries the grape cannot ripen. In countries like England, where the mean temperature is not lower than in some wine-producing countries, the normal summer heat is insufficient. In the
equatorial territories the vine does not prosper. France is the most favoured country, and produces the greatest diversity of character in her wines. Other top wine-producing countries are Italy, Spain, Germany, South Africa, U.S.A. (California).

While the general character of wine depends on the factors of the vine itself, the climate, the soil, the aspect (and in 'made' and 'fortified' wines, the process), specific quality depends on
the particular vintage, which is, to say, on weather.

Wine is savoured both by the sense of taste and the sense of smell (if these be really separate senses as I understand has been philosophically disputed). The eye also comes into the business, and some astonishing stories are told of connoisseurs (quite sober, bien entendu !) desperately chagrined by being unable to tell whether they be drinking Port or Sherry when blindfolded.

It is to my mind rather a mournful thing to see the factors that make for taste and bouquet stated in terms of acids, salts, albumen, ethers.

Let us, then, wave away the chemist as a dull (if clever) dog, and look at the matter from the point of view of the owner of the cellar, the wine-drinker as such.

We all know that well-made wine of a good year will improve with age, will lose certain rawnesses or harshnesses of taste, will refine upon certain delicacies and subtleties of bou-
quet. Age, in fact, is a great factor in the making of fine wine. But not so often is it remembered that wine can undoubtedly be kept
too long, and nothing save occasional trials can with certainty establish what is the best age for any given wine except in very general terms.

The wines with the greatest alcoholic strength will go on maturing and improving for the longest time. A Port or Sherry will thrive for
eighty or ninety years and more. A good Burgundy need not be too old at forty, nor a Claret even at fifty.

Champagne is probably at its best at from twelve to fifteen years (bottling in magnum will add to its maturing period perhaps another four to six years). It is a tragic thing, in view of the brave hopes of the generous soul who laid down good wines, for his sons to go down to some prized and ancient bin and bring forth with pride a wine that has passed its period and lost all its character and
charm. This, of course, apart from any such disaster as the perishing of corks. An occasional bottle should be taken from the noble hoard and sampled to see if all be well. And if the condition be such as to delight the heart, then by all means consume the generous fluid that has waited so long for its hour, and do not risk
disappointing it by keeping it imprisoned until its character deteriorates.