When making red wine, the winemaker has a much greater range of techniques at his disposal and must make more decisions than when making white wine. The process is essentially the same, harvesting the grapes, fermentation, maturation and bottling. But there is one main difference: extracting the color from the skins. At various stages, the winemaker can intervene to change the style of the wine he is making.
Just follow a few simple rules and you’ll be on your way to making great red wine.
The processes are as follows:
1. picking grapes
To make the best red wine we need good quality red wine grapes that are fully ripe, clean and disease free.
Before harvesting the grapes in autumn/autumn, sugar levels tend to increase day by day depending on the weather, while at the same time acidity levels drop. It is important to strike a balance between the two: too much acid will mean the wine will be harsh and take longer to develop, too little and the wine will not age.
The riper the grapes, the higher the natural sugar levels, which in turn will result in a higher total alcohol content (not always desirable). The character we are looking for goes from something ‘soft and subtle’ to something ‘large, powerful and complex’. Therefore, the winemaker must work with the varietal character of the grape combined with what nature has provided in that year. the secret is Always work with nature.
The ideal readings for sugar and acid are as follows:
- Natural Sugar – 22 to 24 degrees Brix
- Acid content should be 5.5 to 6.5 g/litre
Red wine softens with age.
To extract the color, the grapes will be fermented on the skins, that is where the red color comes from. After picking the grapes, you have to remove the stem by passing it through a destemmer. At the same time, the grapes are very gently crushed and passed into a large open-topped fermentation vessel. It is important not to damage the pips or scratches, as this will allow excess tannin to enter the sample, eventually causing a bitter taste in the wine.
3. Maceration and Fermentation
Now the grapes are ready to undergo fermentation. A cultured yeast is sprinkled over the tops of the grapes and gently dipped. During the next few days it will be necessary to macerate the grapes, a process of immersion of the hat (grapes and skins that have floated upwards) in the must (grape juice).
As fermentation progresses, the grape skins are constantly pushed to the top of the hopper and, by macerating several times a day, this top is pushed into the must to ensure maximum contact with the skin, allowing good color extraction. The longer this process lasts, the deeper the color of the wine.
When we are satisfied that we have enough color in the wine, although fermentation is still in full swing, it is time to press the grapes, thus removing all the skins and any other solid matter. The wine is then pumped into a fermentation vessel and sealed with a fermentation closure to continue its fermentation.
At this stage the must will be very warm since the fermentation is almost finished. When wines are allowed to ferment at higher temperatures, specifically red wines, the fermentation is rapid, the yeast cells will now die, and the fermentation will end. The wine is transferred to another container and some type of filtration can be carried out, but this is not always necessary.
This is an interesting stage as barrels of different types of oak can be used for the maturation process. For example, a French oak barrel will give a smoother character than an American oak barrel. By choosing the type of oak, we can influence the flavor of our wine. Also how long the wine stays in the barrel will make a significant difference. The wine extracts tannins from the wood that enhance its character and flavor.
Some wines may have been in the barrel for a year or more before being bottled, so this is a very simple stage of taking the wine out of the barrel, filtering it and then bottling it. The bottles are now deposited in a cellar, some wines are made to be drunk young, while others will be kept for several years to soften and mature before drinking.
The best time for any wine drinker: Taste the fruits of your labor and enjoy!