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Wine production

The major steps involved in wine making are: Harvest, destemming, crushing,
fermentation, pressing, racking & fining, aging, blending, malolactic fermentation,
filtration and bottling. Additional steps are cold stabilization, carbonic maceration.
In general August, September and October mark prime time for the annual grape harvest for most
wineries in Europe and North America, while Australia, New Zealand South America and South
Africa, typically harvest from February to April. The decision to harvest depends on the
individual growing season, grape ripeness, weather and tradition.
Traditional hand-harvesting and mechanical harvesting are the two alternatives available. Handpicking affords more precise selection and tends to protect the grapes juice from oxidation due
to damaged skins. Mechanical harvesters allow for a more efficient, often cost-effective, process
and are well-suited for large vineyards that lay on a flat patch of land. The type of harvest - handpicking, mechanical harvesters or a combination of the two, is largely influenced by the
winemakers final wine style goals.
Destemming, crushing, fermentation and pressing
For red wines, black-skinned grapes are passed through a crusher/stemmer, and then pumped
directly to a stainless steel fermentation tank, where they are inoculated with a specific strain of
the wine yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Between 0-70 mg/lit of sulfur dioxide may be added to
prevent oxidation, to discourage the activity of undesirable microorganisms and to encourage the
action of wine yeast.
During fermentation the yeast gradually converts the sugars to ethyl alcohol and carbon-dioxide.
Heat released during fermentation causes a rise in temperature making it necessary to cool the
The skins remain in the fermentor with the juice, imparting flavor and color. Shortly they begin
to float on the surface, creating a cap. Because a thick surface cap of skins can increase the
fermentation temperature and lead to the formation of undesirable products, it is periodically
necessary to cool the must to maintain temperature (usually between 22-28C) and break up the
cap by punching down or "pumping over." In pumping over, the must is pumped from the
bottom of the fermentor, and sprayed back on top with sufficient force to disrupt the cap. This
procedure is done regularly until the juice is pressed off the skins and seeds. Pumping over also
helps speed the color extraction for red wine. A traditional method of maceration was foottreading or pigeage, where grapes were crushed in vats by barefoot workers.

Fermentation is monitored by sampling each tank daily, following each pumping over. Brix
readings, taken with a hydrometer to estimate sugar concentration, give an indication of how
quickly and how smoothly the fermentation is going; also pH and other variables are often
Carbonic maceration is the fermentation of whole clusters of unbroken grapes in an
atmosphere saturated with carbon dioxide, which prevents traditional yeast fermentation. The
grapes own enzymes convert the sugars to alcohol (intra-cellular fermentation), this yields a
fruity, fresh-tasting wine with limited shelf-life, such as the Gamay based Beaujolais primeur of
The pressing of grapes should be done carefully, as pressing techniques and the time of pressing
will affect wine quality. Pneumatic presses use inflatable bladders and thus prevent excessive
extraction of compounds from the skins or seeds. It is, however, a batch press, and therefore does
not offer the convenience of the less gentle continuous pressing methods. As tannins and phenols
from the skins affect flavor, astringency, and color, it is important that pressing be properly timed
for the type of wine being made. In any pressing operation, the juice/wine that flows out before
pressing, called free run, generally produces the highest quality wine from that lot. Moderate and
hard pressings produce the second and third press run lots, respectively, and these wines are
usually of lower quality, and are often used for jug wines, blending, or distillation. The dry
material left after pressing is called "pomace," and is composed of the left over skins and seeds.
In the making of white wines, unlike in red wines, tannins, astringency, and color are generally
undesirable, and the wines must be processed quickly and delicately. The major deviation from
red wine production is the pressing of the grapes prior to fermentation; other differences are
more subtle (less sulfur dioxide is added to whites than to reds). White grapes are fed into the
crusher/stemmer, and then directly to the press. In a process known as cold settling, white wine
musts are held at low temperatures after pressing to allow solids to settle out, and are racked the
following day.
The must is then pumped to a fermentor, where it is inoculated with Saccharomyces cerevisiae.
Whites are fermented at lower temperatures than reds, typically 7-15C as they are sensitive to
oxidation and bruising. Following the fermentation, white wine may be cooled to precipitate out
potassium bitartrate crystals in a process known as cold stabilization. The most common method
of producing ros wines is fermenting red/black grapes, and then separating skins within 24 to 36
hours to minimize the amount of color and astringency extracted from the skins. Ros wines can
also be made by blending red wine with white. Because ros wines contain limited amounts of
extracted compounds, they should be treated as delicately as white wines, after racking. High
sulfur dioxide content can destroy the color of a ros wine. Ros wines are also highly sensitive
to oxidation, and are very light sensitive.

Many wines improve in quality during barrel and bottle storage. During the aging period, acidity
decreases, additional clarification and stabilization occur as undesirable substances are
precipitated, and the various components of the wine form complex compounds affecting flavor
and aroma.
Wines are usually aged in oak casks/barrels, allowing oxygen to enter and water and alcohol to
escape. Extracts from the wood contribute to flavor. Humidity affects the kind of constituents
that escape, with alcohol becoming more concentrated in wine stored under conditions of low
humidity and weakening with high humidity. Volume decreases due to evaporation, leaving
headspace, or ullage that is compensated by topping up with same wine from another cask.
Some red table wines appreciate in quality, developing less astringency and color, and a greater
complexity of flavor with aging in oak size for two to three years. In the best red wines,
additional improvement may continue with two to 20 years of bottle aging (the rate of aging
being lower in the bottle than in the barrel). More than 90 percent of all table wines are probably
marketed and consumed before they are two years old as are unlikely to improve with age. In dry
white wines, a fresher flavor is considered desirable. These wines are rarely aged in the wood for
long periods, and some are never kept in wood. Earlier bottling of white wines reduces costs for
storage and for handling in wooden cooperage and produces fresher, fruitier flavor. Since ros
wines are meant to be light and fruity, they do not age well over long periods of time.
Malolactic fermentation
This involves the conversion of the grapes naturally occurring and harsh tasting malic acid to a
softer-tasting lactic acid by specific bacteria. The process is standard for most red wine
production and for some white grape varieties such as Chardonnay, where it can impart a
"buttery" flavor from diacetyl, a byproduct of the reaction. Grapes produced in cool regions tend
to be high in acidity, much of which comes from the contribution of malic acid. Malolactic
fermentation generally enhances the body and flavor persistence of wine, producing wines of
greater palate softness.
Wine clarification
Racking, fining and filtration are used to clarify wines. The process of "fining" refers to the
deliberate addition of an adsorptive agent followed by natural settling of the agent or removal by
filtration. Fining is used to remove substances like proteins that can later cause a visual defect of
a haze in wine. Fining can also be employed to remove excess tannins or phenolic compounds
that might impart a harsh or bitter taste. Fining agents also eliminate off-odors and flavors to
"soften" a wine. Finally, fining agents can operate as a molecular sieve, removing suspended
colloidal or particulate matter as the agent settles in the tank. Traditional finings have been
material like egg whites, fish gelatin and seaweed fining. Bentonite is a type of natural adsorbent
clay used in modern wine making to achieve protein stability of wine. The wine is then racked

off to another tank/barrel leaving behind deposit or sediment in the previous. Wines may undergo
filtration both after fermentation and prior to bottling.
The most common use of blending in commercial wineries is to produce a wine with consistent
flavor and texture from one year to the next. Blending is, however, also useful for masking
deficiencies or excesses in wines, or for freshening older wines with younger, fruitier wines. In
general, blending is used to give complexity to wine, and can often add special nuances. In order
to deduce a formula for a blend, a winemaker must experiment with different proportions of his
base wines until he finds a blend he or she likes. Characteristics that were not originally
detectable in either of the base wines may develop within a blend. Therefore, it is important to do
careful sensory evaluations of prospective blends.
The last step in production of wine is bottling. A final filtration is required before bottling, and
some sulfur dioxide may be added to discourage micro-organisms.
During the actual bottling operation, oxygen pickup must be kept to a minimum. Bottom filling
that is, inserting a tube into the bottle and filling from the bottomis often used. In some
cases, the bottle may be flushed with carbon dioxide before filling, or the wine may be sparged
(agitated) with nitrogen gas. Wines subject to oxidation require special care.
The bottle shape and color are dictated by custom and cost. Some white wines, subject to change
when exposed to light, are preferably bottled in brown, brownish green or greenish blue colored
glass bottles.
After bottling, the closure is made. Screw caps are used for standard wines. Cork closures are
preferred for wines that will be aged in the bottle. Red wines that may be aged in the bottle for
many years are closed with natural corks two inches (five centimeters) long or longer.
Occasionally natural cork may give an off-odor, called corked, to the wine; this apparently
results from a contaminant called TCA (trichloroanisole), or from a defect that allows the growth
of mold in or on the cork. Synthetic corks are increasingly being used in non-European countries.
A capsule is placed over the closure, the label is applied, and the bottles are packaged in cases for
shipment. Wines requiring bottle aging are often not capsuled, labeled, or cased until they have
been aged.
Bottled table and dessert wines should be stored on their sides during aging, both at the winery
and by the final customer pending consumption. Appropriate storage conditions include absence

of light and low, even temperatures maintained at about 12 to 16 C (54 to 61 F). Diurnal
fluctuations in temperature as well as vibration lead to deterioration.