Fall is here. To winemakers, this means one thing: time to make wine!
Archaeological evidence puts the world’s first wines in Eurasia around 6000 BC, though recent studies suggest that the first fermented grape and rice beverages may have been made in China as early as 7000 BC! Winemaking has seen some major technological advances, but the basics remain the same. Simply put, winemaking is the process of converting the natural sugars in grapes into alcohol. The wine is then aged to allow the flavors to mellow and develop. This is accomplished in the following steps:
Step 1: Crushing and Destemming
Once the grapes are picked, they are gently crushed to break the skin and allow the juices to flow. Even the very first winemakers realized that stems and seeds, which are high in tannins, can add much bitterness to the taste and must be picked out. While crushing was done by hand (or foot!) for thousands of years, nowadays crushing and destemming are done in a single step with a large aluminum or steel trough called a Crusher Destemmer.
Step 2: Fermentation
Crushed and destemmed, unfermented grapes or “must” is pumped into a vat or tank. Here, live yeast cultures are added to consume the sugars and convert them into ethanol and carbon dioxide. This is a delicate time in the process, and temperature, sugar, pH and nutrient levels must be closely monitored. Fermentation generally takes between one and three weeks, with longer fermentations converting more sugars into alcohol, thereby producing a drier wine with a higher alcohol content.
Step 3: Pressing
When most of the sugar has turned to alcohol, the wine is ready to be pressed. Pressing squeezes out all of the juices and leaves the skins behind. Note: While red wine juices are pressed out after fermentation, white wines are made by separating the liquid from the must before the fermentation process.
Step 4: Aging
Aging time and the vessel used depend on what the winemaker is trying to achieve. While most white wines age several months in stainless steel tanks to produce fresh and fruity notes, some reds age in oak barrels for several years to achieve complex flavors!
Step 5: Enjoy!
There is nothing quite like a well-crafted wine. To find out more, see the winemaking process live and sample locally made wines, stop by Island Winery’s new location at 15 Cardinal Rd. Hope to see you there!
The perfect bottle of hand-crafted artisan wine awaits at Island Winery on Cardinal Rd. Wine by the glass, cheese platters and tastings are available Monday-Saturday from 12:30-5:30 p.m. and Sunday from 12-4 p.m. (843) 842-3141 or www.islandwinery.com.
By Georgene Mortimer, Island Winery