Wine is formed when grapes are crushed and the juice ferments. It ferments due to the naturally occurring yeast on the skins of the grapes. Of course there is a great deal more involved in the making of a good wine. It starts really with the planting of the vineyard or even before that with all the planning and preparation that goes into it first. Some grapes are more suited to making wine than others, so this has to be taken into consideration as well.
Once the grapes are successfully growing on the vine, it’s important to choose the correct time for harvest. Sugar levels of the ripe grapes must be at a maximum. An expert in the field, chewing on the seeds and skins and sampling the sweetness of the grape juice, discerns this. Once it is decided that the grapes are at the perfect stage for harvesting, workers commence cutting the bunches as quickly as possible. Every delay means that the grapes will be over-ripe and thus unfit for making wine. The bunches of grapes are dropped into bins and transported to the winery.
In the old days, harvested grapes were crushed by means of people treading on them with their bare feet. These days they are crushed by machines, a rather more hygienic way – and the fermenting process is carried out in stainless steel vats. Although yeast occurs naturally on the skins of the grapes, the wine-maker will add more yeast of a special culture for winemaking. During fermentation, the yeast that is present in the mixture will begin to digest the sugars that are present. When all the sugar has been digested, the yeast then gradually drops to the bottom of the liquid. This is then poured off into barrels to complete the aging process. These barrels are traditionally made of oak and play an important part in the process of wine making. During the aging process, the wine is moved from full to empty barrels several times, with the solids in the bottom of the barrel removed, and the barrel used again. This process is called racking.
After several months in barrels, the wine is poured into bottles where the aging process is continued. Eventually the wine will reach the consumer in top condition, ready to help him celebrate life or mourn death. Most wines are made from grapes, however wine can also be made from other fruits and even from the flower of the dandelion.
Since there are many factors involved in making wine, there are also many factors to take into consideration when deciding what makes one wine better than another. Some would assert that the age of the wine is the biggest factor and that the older the wine the better it is, but this is not always true. Some wines do not age well.
So what makes one wine better than another? Often it is only in the opinion of the taster, however there are a few points to consider. The variety of the grape is one important consideration. Many different kinds of grapes are used in winemaking and each has its own unique flavor and aroma. Purists would claim that each has its own texture as well. But even before we get to the type of grape, there is the difference in the soil they grow in. This is not just the quality of the soil for it will of necessity be as good as possible. Some soils are chalky and others rich and loamy. Each has bearing on the type and flavor of the grape it produces.
Another consideration must be the climate the grape grows in. Not only the climate geographically, but the kind of year it has been weather-wise in a particular grape growing area. While some climates are ideal for grape growing, you might get a year that is too wet, or too dry. Or the rain comes rather earlier, or later than is ideal. In some cases the type of weather that suits one kind of grape is disastrous for another in the same vicinity. Certain types of grapes need moist, humid conditions to grow well, other need drier weather. It all plays a part in the finished product. Some years have been considered the perfect year for winemaking but sometimes this is unknown until the wine is actually opened and tasted when it is fully matured.
Since wines are kept in wooden barrels to age, some people assert that the most important consideration is the type of wood the barrels are made of. Traditionally, barrels made of English oak were considered the only way to go, but in later years, American Redwood has been used, as there were simply not enough oak barrels available. The temperature during fermentation and the type of yeast culture used also play an important part in the end result. Luckily, there is always a wine that will suit each person, no matter what the weather, soil or grape variety is.
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