Wine is one of the oldest drinks known to man. In fact, the process of wine making has been around for thousands of years. Most people know that wine comes from grapes, but how familiar are you with the step by step process of turning grapes into wine?
In this article, we’ll take you through a step by step process on how to make wine, as well as answer all of your questions such as ‘does grape juice turn into wine? How long does it take to turn grapes into wine? Is all wine made from grapes?’
How is wine made step by step?
There are five basic steps of wine making. These steps are:
- Crushing and pressing
- Aging and bottling
Whether you are making white wine or red wine, these steps stay the same. However, each bottle of wine is unique in its own way due to slight variations during the wine making process. This is what gives each wine its individual flavor and aroma.
Step 1: The Harvest
We know that wine comes from grapes, so the first step is to harvest the grapes. This is arguably the most important step of the wine making process. Without high quality grapes, the wine has no chance of becoming a high quality wine.
Grapes are the only fruit that has the right amount of sugar, acids, esters, and tannins to make wine on a consistent basis. The time at which the grapes are harvested and picked will determine the sweetness, flavor and acidity of the wine. During this step, workers will discard any grapes that are rotten or under-ripe.
Step 2: Crushing and Pressing
In the old days, grapes were crushed by foot. For thousands of years, men and women danced in large barrels of grapes, crushing them with each step. Fast forward a few hundred years, and humans have realized that although it was a fun process, this wasn’t the most sanitary practice.
Today, machines take place of this tradition. Large machines will stomp or trod the grapes into what is known as ‘must.’ Must is essentially grape juice that contains the seeds and stems of the grapes.
Here is where there are some slight variations in the wine making process, depending on if the winemaker is making white wine or red wine. If a white wine is being made, then the winemaker will quickly discard of any skins or seeds from the must, to prevent any color from leaking in. If a red wine is being made, then the winemaker can leave the skins in the must for a period of time. Red wine is left in contact with the skins so it can develop into that rich red color that we all know and love.
Step 3: Fermentation
Now it’s time for the magic step - the one that will turn regular grape juice into wine. If left on it’s own, the grape juice will naturally begin to ferment within 6-12 hours due to the wild yeast that grapes contain.
Some winemakers choose to leave the grape juice as is, and allow the wild yeast to naturally ferment.
However, most winemakers choose to kill the wild yeast and instead add their own yeast of choice, to better control the outcome of the wine.
Once fermentation has begun, the sugar begins to convert to alcohol and wine is produced. The total time it can take a wine to ferment ranges from one week to over a month.
The ABV content of a wine depends on how much sugar the grapes contained. The higher sugar level, the higher alcohol level. If a winemaker is producing a sweet wine, then they will stop the fermentation process before all of the sugar has been converted to alcohol.
Step 4: Clarification
The next step is to clarify the wine and remove dead yeast, proteins, and tannins. Winemakers will transfer the wine into stainless steel tanks or large oak barrels for this step.
In order to remove the unwanted yeast and proteins from the wine, winemakers may add egg whites or clay to help draw out dead years cells and other small solids. The solids will stick to the clay or egg whites and sink to the bottom of the tank.
Step 5: Aging and bottling
The last step in the wine making process is to age and bottle the wine. Some winemakers may choose to bottle the wine immediately, while others may choose to age the wine in wooden barrels or stainless steel tanks.
When aging red wine, many winemakers choose use oak barrels because it produces a smooth, oaky flavor that many wine drinkers like.
Once the wine has been aged, it is bottled and secured with a cork or screw cap.
Check out our other blog to learn how many glasses of wine are in a bottle!
Now you've learned the steps of the wine making process, cheers!
The wine making process has stayed the same for thousands of years, with the exception of stomping the grapes. How easy does winemaking sound to you? Would you like to try your hand as a winemaker?
If you still have questions about the wine making process, check out these frequently asked questions.
How long does wine fermentation last?
The total time it can take a wine to ferment ranges from one week to over a month.
Does grape juice turn into wine?
If left long enough, grape juice can turn into wine. This is because of the wild yeast that’s naturally found in grapes. The presence of the yeast will start to ferment the grape juice and eventually turn it into wine.
Can you drink wine that is still fermenting?
Yes, you can taste wine that is still fermenting, and this is recommended to do. This will allow you to evaluate the wine and see what it is like during every stage. If your wine does not turn out tasting how you’d expect it to, then tasting it during each step can help you find out when the problem occurred and make changes.
How long does it take to turn grapes into wine?
It takes about three years to turn grapes into wine. This is including the time it takes to plant the grape seeds, harvest them, and turn them into wine.
What is wine made out of? Is all wine made from grapes?
Most wines are made from grapes. There are over a thousand different grape varieties that can be used to make wine. Each grape has its own unique characteristics that will determine the outcome of the wine.
Grapes are not the only fruit that can be used to make wine. Other fruit that can be used to make wine include:
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