Wine is an alcoholic beverage traditionally produced from fermented grapes (and less commonly from rice, apples, cherries, plums and other fruits) and enjoyed by billions across the globe. Scientific research confirms that wine has been around for over 6,000 years, the earliest traces discovered in ancient China, Iran and Georgia. While varieties, availability, consumption levels and overall quality have increased exponentially—particularly in the past several decades—something that has not dramatically changed is the fundamental process of wine production.
Simply put, the winemaking process includes picking and crushing grapes, fermenting the grapes into wine and finally aging and bottling it. This process may seem quite straightforward but, because the production is a multibillion-dollar industry with each maker angling for a distinct advantage over competitors, it is actually anything but simple.
Thorough research and detailed planning must take place before any steps in the winemaking process can begin. The first—and arguably most important—consideration is a vineyard’s location, taking into account topography, climate, weather patterns, water supply, soil quality and even labor supply. After a location is selected and secured, decisions must be made regarding the types of grapes to be planted and this will also dictate the variety or varieties of wine that will eventually be produced. As nearly 1,300 different varieties of wine grapes in the world come from 521 wine-producing regions in over 40 countries, the possibilities are seemingly endless.
Once a vineyard is planted and begins to produce enough grapes, the “vine-to-wine” process commences. Grapes are picked in varying peak conditions which are specific to the variety of grape and take into account the desired color and sugar level. All grapes must be harvested (traditionally by hand but also by machine, particularly outside France) and handled with the utmost care to ensure they are neither bruised nor prematurely split. After leaves and stems are removed, the grapes are crushed. Skins from white grapes are separated from the juice while red grapes retain their skins due to the unique color and flavor they add to red wine.
Fermentation occurs when the grapes’ own sugar converts into alcohol. Though all wine grapes contain varying amounts of natural yeasts, the content is inconsistent so winemakers manually add specially-designed yeasts and occasionally sugars. Fermentation happens in either stainless steel drums or oak barrels, depending on the type of wine. A determination must next be made regarding the correct temperature and amount of time in the fermentation process, as each can dramatically alter the resulting wine. When the juice reaches the desired alcohol content, all yeasts and skins are removed and the fermentation process is complete.
The final step in winemaking is bottling. As is implied, wine is placed into glass bottles and labeled for distribution and sale. Some varieties can be enjoyed immediately while others must age before achieving an optimal aroma, flavor and texture. Everyone has heard some variation of “there will be no wine before its time” and the adage is certainly applicable here.
Though there are tens of thousands of commercial wineries around the world, very few have perfected the winemaking process the way Joseph Phelps Vineyards has. Founded in 1973 by Joseph Phelps, the original vineyard consisted of nearly 700 acres of lush and picturesque land in the famous Napa Valley region of Northern California. It has since grown into one of the most recognized wineries in the world and was named Wine Spectator’s “Wine of the Year” in 2002. In addition to fine restaurants and shops, wines from Joseph Phelps Vineyards are now conveniently available online.
Joseph Phelps Vineyards is an award-winning producer of some of the world’s top wines. Connoisseurs can now buy wine online from Joseph Phelps Vineyards.
For more information, visit Josephphelps.com
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