Wine production has been around for thousands of years; it even has evangelical significance in some religions. While the methods of its production have evolved over the years, the wine creation process still includes 5 main stages. Here’s a breakdown of what they are:
The wine making process begins with the harvesting of grapes. In order to achieve the perfect balance of sweetness and acidity, the fruit must be harvested at exactly the right time, depending on how ripe it is. This ensures that the wine is delicious and flavorful.
Using yeast for alcohol fermentation is no new concept. In fact, it can be dated back hundreds of years when the fermenting properties of this microorganism were first discovered.
What Happens In Fermentation?
The process of alcoholic fermentation can be divided into two stages. The first stage is known as glycolysis, in which glucose sugar is converted into pyruvate. This is then used as the main element for the chemical reaction in the second stage, which is the actual process of fermentation itself.
In the second phase, yeast us added to pyruvate. This allows for the conversion of the sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide through the special enzymes present in the yeast cells. Simply put, fermentation is the process in which yeast converts sugar into alcohol. It can be explained through the following word equation:
glucose + yeast = alcohol + carbon dioxide
How Long Does Fermentation Take?
Fermentation is the most important part of alcohol production, as this is where the sugary liquid gains the desired alcohol content. The process takes quite a bit of time, ranging from a few weeks to a month. Conical fermentation tanks made from stainless steel are used for this procedure.
It is important that no air is present in the tanks during fermentation as this would result in the production of ethanoic acid, souring the beverage. Fermentation can be used to produce a whole array of alcoholic drinks, which basically differ on their source of sugar.
For wines, sugar is extracted from crushed grapes. This is usually fermented with the wild yeast present on the grapes’ skin, although additional yeast may be required as well. When the alcohol concentration reaches around 15%, the yeast dies and the sugary liquid is left behind.
Beer is created using grains such as barley, rye, oats, or wheat. The sugar is extracted from these grains after being malted, mashed, and boiled. Yeast is then added for fermentation of the liquid, producing the final product.
For creating stronger spirits, distillation is required as yeast dies in high alcohol concentrations. After fermentation, the drink is heated to vaporize ethanol and create a higher concentration of the alcohol after the evaporated gas condenses. Rum and vodka are among spirits created this way.
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Crushing and Juicing
Once harvested, the grapes are then de-stemmed and crushed. Grape pressing techniques have come very far since the days when people used to stomp grapes with their feet; today, crushing devices are used which make the process a lot more sanitary.
Mechanical presses extract the juice from the grapes and bring them into “must” form. This refers to grape juice containing seeds and skin, which is then further processed. The mechanical pressing equipment not only makes the crushing process sanitary, but it also improves the quality of the wine.
Once the main component of wine has been obtained, it is then fermented in a fermentation tank. At this stage, cultured yeast is either added by the manufacturer or the juice is allowed to ferment naturally.
The fermentation process continues until all the sugar content in the must is converted into alcohol, creating dry wine. For a sweeter wine, the process may be discontinued before the sugar conversion is complete. Typically, fermentation can last from 10 days to over a month.
After fermentation, the excess solids such as tannins, proteins, and dead yeast cells are removed from the mixture. The wine is shifted into a stainless steel tank or an oak barrel. This process is called clarification.
To further clarify the wine, certain substances are added to the wine to remove unwanted elements. Through filtration, these larger particles are captured while the wine is passed through a filter.
Aging and Bottling
Finally, the wine is ready to be bottled and cellared. The aging of wine varies by manufacturer, with some preferring to incorporate additional aging elements, while others bottle it right away. Depending on their preferences, the wine is stored in wooden barrels or steel tanks and then bottled shut using screw caps or corks.
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