Destemming & Crushing Red Grapes
Immediately after arriving at the winery, the process of destemming and crushing red grapes begins. The resulting liquid is called the must and consists of skins, seeds and juice. It is important that as many stems as possible are removed, as they contain abrasive, unpleasant tannins. This is the first step in the Red Wine Production process.
Adding to Fermentation Containers
After the grapes have been destemmed and crushed, the must is pumped to a fermentation container where it settles for a few days. There are many different types of fermentation containers, from large stainless steel tanks to small oak barrels. At this time, the sugar and acidity levels are usually adjusted.
Adding Sulfur Dioxide and Yeast
The next step in the Red Wine Production process is Sulfur dioxide addition. This will prevent the must from becoming discolored or oxidized. It also destroys bacteria and other microorganisms. Although some winemakers use the naturally present yeast on grape skins for fermentation, it is far more common to add a yeast type that has been cultured in the lab. This will give the winemaker more predictable results. If cultured yeast are added, the natural yeast must first be neutralized.
Once the yeast is added, alcoholic fermentation begins. In Red Wine Production, the must is typically fermented for a shorter time, but at a higher temperature than white wine. Depending on the varietal, this process occurs between 74 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit. Whereas white wines may be fermented for a month or more, it is rare for it to take longer than two weeks for red wines.
In addition to the alcohol created by fermentation, pigments and tannins are also imparted into the must from skin contact. This part of the Red Wine Production process is called maceration, and often lasts longer than fermentation. A cap will form as released carbon dioxide pushes solids to the top of the fermentation container. Many winemakers extract additional pigments and tannins from the skins by either punching down or pumping over the cap. Some wineries have tanks called rotofermenters that turn on their sides continuously to prevent a cap from ever forming.
When the winemaker feels that enough maceration has occurred, the must is moved from its fermentation containers for pressing. A variety of methods can be used, but basket pressing is the most common for high quality Red Wine Production. Wines that will undergo oak treatment are moved to barrels at this point.
Red wine malolactic fermentation is a critical part of the Red Wine Production process. While it is optional in whites, the vast majority of red wines undergo this process. Leuconostoc bacteria are the catalyst for malo. They turn the tarter malic acid into smoother lactic acid, which is present in milk and many other dairy products.
After malolactic fermentation and any barrel aging are complete, the wine is removed from its container through a process called racking. Clear wine is racked from the top of the container to separate it from the remaining solids. The debris that remains at the bottom of the fermentation container is often used as fertilizer in the vineyard.
After racking, most red wines undergo additional clarification. Different methods are used, with some being much more invasive than others. Regardless of which clarification method is used, sulfur dioxide is added to the wine again at this point to kill any harmful microorganisms. This is typically the last step of Red Wine Production before bottling.
Bottling and Labeling
After the wine has been clarified to the vintner’s specifications, it is time for bottling and then inserting corks. It is common for wines to be aged in the bottle for some period of time before being put on the market. This will avoid selling the wines when they are agitated by bottle shock. Finally, the wine labels are affixed, and the product is ready to be enjoyed.
Barbera – (bar-bear-ah) An Itailian grape which makes a light, fresh, fruity wine that are sometimes very good.
Bourdox – (bor – doh) Usually a mixture of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot, and sometimes Carmenere.
Burgundy – (ber – gun – dee) A red burgundy traditionally is made from Pinot Noir grapes.
Cabernet Franc – (cav - air - nay – fran - c) Cabernet Franc is grown thoughout Bordoux, although it is only planted itteularly in the Medoc and increasingly less so in Graves. It fares best as Bouchet in St. –Emilion and at Pomerol, across the Dordogne river, where the Cabernet Sauvignon is less well represented. Grown under newtral conditions, it might no be easy to distinguish any significant varietal differences between the two Cabernets but suited as they are to different situations, the Cabernet Franc tends to produce a slightly earthly style of wine that is very aromatic, but has less fine characteristics on the palate when campared to the Cabernet Sauvignon.
Cabernet Sauvignon – (cav – air – nay – so – vee – n’yohn) A red grape responsible in large part for the great wines of Bordeaux, France. It is characteristically tannic when young, allowing for good structure, complexity and longevity. Many California cabernets have Merlot and Cabernet Franc blended into them.
Chianti – (dee – ahn – tee) Is probably the best known exported Italian wine. Chianti originated form the Tuscany region, but is now produced in many parts of Italy. Chianti is a special mixture of Sangionvese, Black Canaiolo, Malvasia and Trebbiano grapes. There are many styles of Chianti on the market, mainly distinguished by the area from which the wine was produced.
Gamay – (ga-may) Gamay has a pear like aroma. They should be drank at a young age and fresh. However, some can be stored for 10 – 15 years and these wine produce Pinot Noir like traits.
Grenache – (gruh-nosh) The Grenache is grown in southern France where it is partly responsible for the wines of Chateauneuf-du-Pape. These wines can vary from port style to light roses.
Malbec – (mal - bec) The grape is traditionally used in bourdoux blends in order to provide color and tannin. It is also grown in the Loir, Chors, and Mediterranean redions, among many others.
Merlot – (Mair – lo) A red wine grape which contributes fruit, softness, suppleness, and charm to many wines. Merlot actually accounts for half the acreage of red grapes in Bordeaux, almost twice that of Cabernet Sauvignon. Merlot ripens earlier than Cabernet, which produces grapes with more sugar. This yields wines that are less tannic and astringent, making them ready to drink sooner. The popularity of Merlot continues to grow, as it is softer in style than Cabernet.
Monastrell – (maw-nehs-trell) An underrated Spanish variety that is usually hidden in blends. However, it does leave a full and distinctive flavor and could make an individual wine of some appeal.
Nebbiolo – (neh-b'yoh-ioh) Famous for the production of Barolo. This grape is also responsible for other blended wines. It often needs to be softened by the addition of Bonarda grapes, which have the same role as Merlot grapes in Bourdoux. In fact, Merlot is used in Lombardy to soften Nebbiolo grapes for the production of Valtelina Superiore wines, of which Sassella can be the most velvetly of all.
Pinot Noir – (pee – no – n’wahr) A red wine grape that produces all the great Burgundy wines. Pinot Noir is usually a little heavier than Merlot and softer and spicier than Cabernets. Pinot Noir is a fragile grape, not as reliable as Cabernet Sauvignon, and produces fine wines when the conditions are right, and not every year. When at their best these grapes produce wines that have a subtlety, complexity, elegance and finesse unmatched by other wines.
Sangiovese – (san – gee – o – va - see) This is the principle variety in Chianti. In a pure varietal form it can lack fruit and have a metallic finish.
Syrah – (sigh - ra) A variety whose name is derived from Shiraz. The capitol of Fars, a province in Iran. It is believed the vine was originally in Persia. The grape makes a big, rich, tanic wines, with a good deal of fruit.
Zinfandel – (zin - fin - dahl) This grape lends itself to many styles; from light and fruity to ripe, rich, tannic, and intensely flavored. This extreme diversity has made it the most widely planted grape in California. Zinfandel is often described as spicy, berry like or brambly. Most of this grape goes to developing White Zinfandel.