Cold Country Vines & Wines


Five Stages of Winemaking

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You know wine comes from grapes, but just how does the winemaking process work?

Here are the five stages of winemaking.


The harvest stage is the initial stage of every winemaking process. In order to produce fine wine, grapes must be harvested at a precise time – when considerably ripe. Harvesting can be done by hand or mechanically. Most winemakers prefer to pick their grapes by hand because mechanical harvesters can be too hard on the grapes and vineyard. As soon as the grapes are harvested, they’re sorted to remove under ripe or rotten grapes.


The second stage of winemaking involves crushing of the clutters of fresh and ripe grapes into must. Today, mechanical crushers are being implemented to replace the old tradition of stomping on the grapes. At this stage, a winemaker decides whether to make red wine or white wine.


The wine undergoes most of its transformation in the fermentation stage. If the crushed grapes are left for about 6-12 hours, wild yeasts will serve as a catalyst to aid the process of fermentation — this is referred to as natural fermentation and is practiced in a very clean environment. Some winemakers intercept natural fermentation by killing the wild natural yeast and introducing a personally chosen yeast. If the fermentation process continues until all of the sugar converts to alcohol then a dry wine is produced. Sweet wine is produced when fermentation stops before every sugar component is turned into alcohol – the decision depends on the winemaker.


As soon as fermentation is completed, the process of clarification begins. Winemakers can choose to siphon their wines between barrels, leaving the solids and precipitates — called pomace — at the bottom of the fermenting tank. Fining and filtering can also be done at this stage. Fining involves adding fining agents to wine to increase clarity. The clarified wine is then racked into another barrel where it is prepared for bottling or aging.


This is the final stage, where the wine is bottled and/or stored. Aging can be done in stainless steel, glass bottles, ceramic tanks, wooden barrels, etc. and left in a controlled environment so the wine can mature.

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