Making Wine Is Part Science And Art
by: Phillip Wainwright
There are plenty of vintners in Australia making some of the finest wine in the world as evidenced by the increasing numbers of mainland sales and worldwide exports. Australian wine producers are making over a billion litres of wine every year in all six states. The various vineyards in the different states produce wines with interesting and unique qualities which are determined by climate, soil type and the wine making process itself.
Making wine is part science and part art. Anyone can grow grapes, but knowing when to pick them and how to convert them into a high quality wine requires experience, judgment and finesse. The commercial wine making process is complex for this reason even though the steps themselves may seem simple.
Variety is the Wine Spice of Life
Australian wines are produced using a variety of grapes to create everything from Chardonnay to Merlot. Australia?s Shiraz wine has achieved global recognition and accolades for possessing unique and interesting qualities.
However, there is a standard wine making process by which all wines are made no matter what variety of grape is used. At a commercial vineyard, the grapes are grown, crushed, fermented and bottled with variances in procedures found depending on which vintner you choose.
Wine begins with grape growing of course. In Australia, there are over 169,000 hectares planted with commercially grown grape vines in 60 recognized wine regions. The primary wine producing vineyards are found in the states of Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia.
Harvesting the grapes is the first major step in the process of wine making. Deciding when to pick the grapes is seen by many as one of the most important decisions a vintner makes. The grapes must be as close to their ideal state of ripeness as possible in order for the winemaker to produce the kind of wine desired.
Commercial winemakers have years of experience when it comes to determining when to pick grapes. They also have experienced wine pickers who know how to pick the fruit without damaging it in the process.
Crushed to Perfection
After the grapes are picked, they are cleaned in preparation for crushing. Mostly grape juice makes it to a bottle of wine and there will be no stems, leaves or other unwanted residues.
Red and white grapes are crushed differently. Red grapes are generally crushed with the skins left intact and the juice and skins are used during fermentation. The skins contribute to the wine qualities of flavour, appearance (eg colour) and body in red wines. The skins and juice of red wine are fermented together and this leads to the presence of the right quantity of tannins in the wine.
White grapes are crushed with the skin intact, but the skin is then separated from the juice prior to fermentation.
During the fermentation process alcohol is produced. The amount of alcohol can be tested with scientific instruments to a precise degree. The quality of the fermented wine is determined by the vintner and will depend on the type of wine being produced.
During fermentation the crushed grapes are placed in big steel vats or oak barrels along with cultured yeast. Wine fermented in oak barrels is often red and the barrel itself contributes to the earthy or woody flavour of the wine. The skins are removed from the fermented red grape mixture before filtering and bottling. Having said that, many white wines ? especially Chardonnay ? is also oak fermented, but they remain in the minority.
The vintner is the person who decides when the fermentation process is complete. During fermentation the crushed grapes will be maintained at a carefully controlled temperature. After the decision has been made as to when to pick the grapes, the fermentation process is the most critical step in the process of creating high quality wine.
Quality Can Be Bottled
When the fermentation process is deemed complete, the winemaker then filters the wine so most of the grape sediment, vine particles and yeast are removed. After filtering the wine is ready to be bottled.
When you hear the term ?wine aging?, it refers to storing the wine until it is at peak condition. All wines improve with ages. The degree of that improvement and the extent to which it can keep improving over time depends on many factors. Of note in the 21st Century more and more wines are being bottled to drink now.
This is a simplified description of how wine is made, but serves to create a general understanding of the process and its intricaies.
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