According to Wikipedia, wine is an alcoholic beverage that is made from fermented grapes. However, according to us i.e. wine-lovers, it is nectar from Olympus itself. A wine-tasting experience is special for everyone because, each one of us is as distinctive individuals, have our own preference of aromas and flavours. Most people find their ideal wine after a few experiences- a wine that trumps all others and gets etched into their tastebuds forever. From this feeling of contentment arises the most important question of all- How did humans learn to craft Wine?
The Early Years
Europe is known to be the birthplace of a large majority of wines. The early roots of wine can be traced back to the ancient Greek civilisation. The practices of the Greeks were adopted by the Roman civilisation, thereby making Italy, a hotbed for the finest wines. These spirited and ambitious communities believed that wine was a daily necessity and declared the drink autonomous and ever-present, thus making wine available to slaves, peasants, and aristocrats alike. Even women were not denied the opportunity to indulge in wine consumption. Talk about them being way ahead of their time!
Wine-making in ancient Rome began soon after the harvest, by treading grapes using feet. The grape-stomping was followed by a series of processes that produced the finest of wines, that has indirectly inspired great artwork.
With the vast progress in technology and usage of newer equipment, the process of wine making has become an easier and efficient task. Wine making is a process that requires slight human intervention, hence each winemaker guides the wine making process by utilising different techniques. There are four basic steps to the wine making process that have been used since the early ages and have been improved with technology to acquire desired flavours. Winemakers typically follow the following steps but have introduced variations and deviations along the way to make it unique.
1. Harvesting and De-stemming:
The first step in the process of winemaking is harvesting. It can be done either by hand or mechanically. Many winemakers prefer to harvest by hand because mechanical harvesting can damage the grapes or the vineyard. Grapes are the only fruit that has the necessary acids, esters, and tannins to consistently make natural and stable wine that is capable of bringing out diverse flavours in the finished product. Once the grapes are taken to the winery, they are sorted into bunches and separated from the rotten or under ripe grapes, which are then discarded. The grapes are then de-stemmed and carried forward to the next step.
2. Crushing and Pressing:
After the grapes are sorted, they are ready to be de-stemmed and crushed. For many years, men and women did this manually by stomping the grapes with their feet. Some vineyards let outsiders contribute to this experience. In industrial production, mechanical presses trudge and trod the grapes into must. Must is simply freshly pressed grape juice that contains grape skins, seeds, and solids. Mechanical pressing has brought tremendous sanitary gain, and has increased the durability and quality of the wine.
3. Primary Fermentation and Clarification
After crushing and pressing, fermentation comes into action, which is then followed by clarification. The must usually begins fermenting naturally within half a day after pressing, when it is aided by yeast. This fermentation continues until all of the sugar is converted into alcohol, thus producing fry wine. To create a sweet wine, wine makers stop the process before all of the sugar is converted. Fermentation can take anywhere from 10 days to one month, or more.
4. Secondary Fermentation and Bulk Aging
Secondary fermentation generally takes around 6-8 months, followed by bottling of the wine. While fermenting, the wine is kept under airlock to avoid oxidation. Wine makers have two post-fermentation options, either bottle the wine right away or give the wine additional aging. Aging the wine in oak barrels will produce a smoother, rounder, and more vanilla flavoured wine.
Winemaking at Home
At present, Italy is second only to France in the list of the world’s leading wine producers. The majority of the people living in Italy brew their own wine in the most efficient and homely ways possible.
BoozeBay reached out to one of the locals and she revealed her low-budget family wine recipe which is ever present at the dinner table.
“I get my yeast from eBay, add pure apple/grape juice to a ten litres demijohn, and mix a tiny bit of water in it. I then airlock it and leave it in a warm place for around 3 weeks. Then, I bottle it while avoiding sediments at the bottom. I then put at least two tablespoons of sugar in each bottle before leaving it for a month, and then viola! You can get drunk on your own easy and sustainable home wine.”
Winemaking is an art that requires patience and precision. The choices and techniques employed in this final stage of the process are nearly endless, as are the end results. However, the common result in all cases is the production of wine.
So maybe one day after you have tasted your way through the various types of wines, you can start making your own with these easy steps!