In the main scheme of things, making wine is not the beginning but more towards the end of the process. Up to this point, starting in the spring, the vines have begun to grow, the buds have popped out, and the grapes have formed and ripened. In the fall, the grapes have been harvested, and now, we’re ready to start making the wine.
While there are similarities in making red and white wine, there are some differences, too. Let's start with the making of red wine.
Step One: The Crush
The first step is crushing and destemming the grapes. The crush is when the skins are broken to expose the meaty flesh and juice of the grape.
Step Two: Add Yeast
While yeast is natural on the skins of the grapes, many wine makers won't depend on the natural yeast alone. Instead, they will add just the right type of yeast to accelerate the fermentation process.
Step Three: Primary Fermentation
Fermentation is when the sugar in the grape comes in contact with yeast and is converted to alcohol and carbon dioxide. This is where the grape juice becomes wine!
Step Four: Managing the Grape Skins
During fermentation, the skins, seeds, and stems float to the top of the juice. The winemaker wants to keep the skins moist and in contact with the juice in order to extract color, flavor, and tannins. The two basic ways they keep the skins in contact with the juice are Pigeage (translated "punching down") and Remontage (translated "pumping over").
Step Five: Separating the Juice and the Solids
Here, the winemaker simply drains the juice out of the fermentation vessel.
Step Six: Pressing the Solids
The solids will still be wet with juice, so in this step, the winemaker presses them to extract the rest of the wine. This wine is either discarded or blended with the juice from Step Five.
Step Seven: Secondary Fermentation
During this step, also known as Malolactic Fermentation, the natural, malic acid in the wine is converted into lactic acid through the use of a variety of bacteria.
Step Eight: Maturing the Wine
The goal here is to allow the wine to develop additional flavors. The winemaker will use different kinds of vessels and blending processes to get the flavors that they want.
Step Nine: Finishing
Just before bottling, many producers filter their wine. This removes impurities that can alter the taste. It also prolongs the wine's shelf life.
Bonus Step: Clarifying or Fining
Some producers add a tenth step in which they use things like egg whites, bentonite clay, and fish bladder to cause impurities to fall to the bottom of the vessel.
For a real quick overview of white wine making, check out this video. In it, I also go into greater depth on the ten steps we just outlined above. I trust you'll find it helpful!