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The flavor you taste when snacking on grapes is quite different than the flavor of wine those grapes can turn into. But those flavors are dependent on a whole lot more than just blending different grapes (although it’s part of that too). While every wine estate and winery does things a little bit different, some more modern than others, this is the very basic process of turning grapes into wine.
First, it’s time to collect the grapes! When the grapes are harvested largely depends on the location’s climate. In the U.S., the harvest may occur over the Summer, while many in Europe harvest from late August and into October, such as the wine harvest at our Roman Countryside Discovery cooking vacation. Some estates collect these grapes by hand, others use machines. Some harvest at night, if the weather is too hot during the day, while others do this in the sunlight hours.
Sorting the grapes, and processing
Since the grapes are removed with the vines and stems still on, those are removed typically at this point in the process after the grapes go through a sorter. At this point, how the white grapes and red grapes are processed can vary. White grapes are often pressed to get the juice, while removing the skin; meanwhile red wine grapes keep their skin and are lightly crushed. Again, this is the very basics of the process!
Fermentation: From Fruit into Wine
Fermentation is the process of how the sugars of the grape get turned into alcohol, and yeast is a very important part of that. Wineries use various strains to do this. The length of time that the wine grapes and wine ferment will also vary, as will the temperature, and what it’s stored in. Typically, if the fermentation process is longer, and if wooden barrels are used, the cost of the wine will be more. Many wines are done fermenting when all the sugar has converted to wine, but that’s not true of all wines; sweet wines in particular won’t have all the sugars converted.
Now we wait
After the fermentation, the wine is clarified; in other words, it’s filtered and refined so that anything unwanted in the wine is removed. At this point, it’s then time for either bottling, or aging, depending on the wine. In regards to aging, the time spent again varies drastically depending on the grape and wine. How it’s aged — from stainless steel tanks to oak barrels — will also affect the wine’s flavor.
The last step: getting all that wine into bottles, and then closing it up with a screw cap, or, more commonly, cork. Some wines can continue to be aged while in bottles, but not all.
To learn more about the winemaking process, take your pick of cooking vacations! While our Provence Wine Tour is heavily focused on wine, from how it’s made to tasting it, many of our cooking vacations include a wine tasting or two. On our Best of Bordeaux cooking vacation, you can even learn how to blend wine!
By Liz Hall
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