Harvest to bottle

October 6, 2022 by
Maytte Rivera

Harvest has finished in most of the wineries in the Northern Hemisphere.  The exact time for harvesting grapes is going to depend on their concentration of sugars, acids, tannins and flavor compounds.  It varies between grape varieties, place of origin, and the style that the winemaker wants to impart to the wine.  It can be done by hand or with specialized machinery, during the day or at night to preserve fresh fruit flavors and prevent oxidation and early fermentation.

When the grapes are received in the winery, they are handpicked on a table to eliminate unripe, rotten, or unwanted grapes and vegetal material like leaves. The winemaker can choose to dispose of the stems and slightly crush the grapes to extract the juice without hurting the seeds, since stems and seeds are full of tannins which give the wine an astringent texture and fuller structure.  are gently pressed to separate the juice from the solids (seeds, skins, pulp…) For white wines, this is usually done before fermentation. For red wines, since contact with the skin is necessary to extract color, it is usually done after fermentation.

The juice is taken to stainless steel tanks or oak barrels for fermentation. During this process, natural or added yeast feeds on the sugars, converting it to alcohol and carbon dioxide. Now we have wine! On average, wines have from 12.5% to 14.5% alcohol by volume.

After fermentation, the remaining solids need to be removed to make the wine clear.  This can be done by adding a fining agent (like egg whites), which cause large particles of unwanted sediment to attach to it, making it easier to remove.  Wine can then be filtered to remove smaller particles. 

Ageing is an optional step that is usually done in stainless steel tanks, concrete vessels, or oak barrels, depending on the style of the wine being made and the aging requirements of each region.  White wines skip this step most of the time to maintain fruit flavors, while in red wines this step is almost necessary smooth tannins and merge all the components.  The finished wines can spend some time in bottle maturation, depending on local laws and the winemaker’s syle, or go straight to the importer or retail store. Cheers!

Author: Maytte Rivera

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