Red wine is made with red grape varieties. All the color you see in a glass of red wine comes from the anthocyanin (red pigment) found in the skin of the grape. During the harvest, the most important thing is to harvest the grapes in a perfect state of ripeness. For winemakers, the harvest season can be the most critical time of year, but also a lot of fun!
At the winery, the winemaker decides whether or not to remove the stems or to ferment grape bunches as whole clusters. This is an important choice because leaving stems in the fermentation adds astringency but also reduces sourness.
Indigenous yeasts starts the wine fermentation. The fermentation is the name for the process in which sugars and water are transformed into alcohol and CO₂ carried out by yeasts. The yeasts could be selected or occur spontaneously in the juice. Natural yeasts, found naturally on grapes, are more challenging but often result in more complex aromatics, this is the fermentation process of our wines.
Winemakers use many methods to tune the wine during Alcoholic fermentation. For example, the fermenting juice gets frequently stirred to submerge the skins. One way to do this is to pump wine over the top. The other way is to punch down the “cap” of floating grape skins with a tool. Most wines take 5–21 days to ferment sugar into alcohol.
After the fermentation, winemakers drain the freely running wine from the tank and put the remaining skins into a wine press. Pressing the skins gives winemakers about 15% more wine. As the red wine settles in tanks or barrels, a second fermentation happens. A microbe feasts on the wine acids and converts sharp-tasting malic acid into creamier lactic acid. Red wines age in a variety of storage vessels including wooden barrels, concrete, glass, clay, and stainless steel tanks. Each vessel affects wine differently as it ages. Wooden barrels affect wine the most noticeably. The oak wood itself flavors the wine with natural compounds. Unlined concrete and clay tanks have a softening effect on wine by reducing acidity. Of course, the biggest thing that affects flavors in red wine is time. The longer a wine rests, the more chemical reactions happen within the liquid itself.
Now it’s time to make the final blend. The winemaker blends wines together or different barrels of the same grape to make a finished wine. Blending wine is a challenge because you have to use your sense of texture on your palate instead of only your nose.
One of the final steps of how red wine is made is the clarification process. For this, many winemakers add clarifying or “fining” agents to remove suspended proteins in the wine (proteins make the wine cloudy). Then, the wine gets passed through a filter for sanitation. This is important because it reduces the likelihood of bacterial spoilage.
Now, it’s time to bottle our wine. It’s very important to do this step with as little exposure to oxygen as possible. A small amount of sulfur dioxide is often added to help preserve the wine. Finally, a few special wines continue to age in the cellar for years.