How is Wine Made?

Question from Roy: How is wine made? 

Reply: Hi, Roy. Thanks for writing! Your question has a, potentially, very long answer but I assume you want the short story.

For anyone who is intimidated by wine, you should know that making it is so simple it was discovered by accident. Making good wine can be quite another matter but someone, yea long ago, thought he put aside a pot of grape juice. Then, after a few days he noticed it bubbling and foaming. If he was brave enough to taste it, he found that it had a very warm, pleasant relaxing effect. So, wine was born and, as you know, goes back thousands and thousands of years. 

All you need to make wine is grape juice and yeast. The yeast is supplied, courtesy of Mother Nature. It’s like bacteria – it’s everywhere. 

The yeast feeds on the sugar in the juice setting off a chemical reaction called fermentation. The yeast converts the sugar into alcohol, carbon dioxide gas (thus the foaming) and heat. When the yeast runs out of sugar it dies or goes dormant and you have a dry (not sweet) wine. If the yeast peters out or dies early the wine will be sweet because there’s sugar left over.

Today’s winemaker knows from experience that a little over half the amount of sugar he measures at harvest time will wind up as alcohol in the finished, dry wine. So, the sugar is a major factor in making a decision on when to harvest. 

The fermentation usually only takes a few weeks. Aging is optional, but that’s what takes the time and explains why some wines aren’t released until years after the harvest. 

So – that’s the short course! If you’d like more detail, it’s here. If you’d like more detail, yet, just write and ask! Cheers!

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