Have you ever say with your glass of Italian wine and really thought about everything that goes into making it?
You’re experiencing a symphony of unique tastes and flavours. It all seems so simple too. Just buy a bottle of your favourite vintage and pour. You can enjoy the wonderful wine in a matter of minutes.
But a bottle that might take you a couple of hours to drink has had months upon months of love and care poured into it. Every producer spends a great deal of time crafting their wines that we think it’s only fair to give them their due.
To do that, we’re going to take a look at the steps that the average producer takes to make that bottle of wine you’re holding.
Just a quick disclaimer before we start. Every producer has their own tricks and secrets, which we’re not going to cover here. Instead, we’re just going to look at the general steps that pretty much every bottle of Italian wine has to go through on its way to the bottle.
Before you can get the grape, you need to have a vine.
Most producers already have vineyards full of the various vines needed for their grapes. These vines need constant maintenance to keep them at full capacity. This is especially true in the modern world, where inconsistent climates and weather conditions have led to many producers having to adapt their farming techniques.
Producers tend to their vines and take care of them for months upon months. Every grape has a slightly different harvesting time, with some maturing early while others don’t reach full ripeness until much later in the year.
The producer needs to have an in-depth understanding of their vines and what they produce. You could argue that this is where the bulk of the work takes place. It’s certainly the most taxing step from a physical labour standpoint. Daily care and tending is the only way to ensure the vines stay healthy enough to produce high-quality grapes.
Eventually, the fruit of these vines will ripen.
It’s at this point that the producer will undergo the picking process.
This seems simple enough, but you may not know that most producers pick their white varietals before they pick their reds. This may be because they have faster maturing times, although it also helps in keeping different varieties separate from one another.
The large the producer, the longer this process can take. That’s why many modern producers now use machines to help them cut and pick their grapes. After all, can you imagine a producer as large as the Antinori family employing the hundreds (or even thousands) of people that it would take to pick all of their grapes.
That’s not all. The type of grape determines whether it’s best to pick it during the day or night. Producers typically look to maximise sugar levels and grape quality by picking during the time when the climate most favours the grape.
Before the fermenting process can start, the grapes need to be crushed.
Again, this is a process that can be done by either man or machine. Many of you may have the traditional method of stomping on the grapes in mind. But in most cases, producers use specially-designed presses to get through the process quickly and keep up with the high volume of grapes that they produce.
The crushing process also differs depending on the type of grape.
After crushing, white wine grapes get transferred into a press, which producers use to extract the grapes’ juices. Once that’s done, the skin gets left behind and the pure juice moved into tanks. Here, they’ll sit for a while to allow sediment to collect at the bottom of the tank. After settling for a while, the grapes undergo a process called racking. This is essentially a filtering process that ensures no sediment makes its way into the pure white grape juice.
Red grapes undergo the same destemming and crushing process that white wine grapes undergo. However, they aren’t transferred into a press once this process is finished. Instead, the grapes go straight into a vat – skins and all – to begin fermentation. This is important as it’s the skins that give the wine its red colouring.
This is the process in which the grape juice gets converted into alcohol. Again, every producer has their own methods here, but the process generally follows some standard steps.
For both red and white grapes, the producer adds yeast to the storage vat. This yeast spurs on the fermentation process. After that, it’s just a case of waiting for white wines.
However, red wines undergo a few other steps. The producer will release the carbon dioxide from the storage vat at regular intervals. This causes the grape skins to rise to the top of the vat, thus keeping them in contact with the wine juices.
It’s also after fermentation that red wines undergo the pressing techniques mentioned earlier. This is to remove the grape skins after they’ve imbued their colouring into the wine.
After fermentation, producers have to wait a little bit.
They’re remove their wines from their fermentation vats and place them in barrels. The materials used to make these barrels vary from different types of wood to different types of metal.
The winemaker has a lot of control here and can choose to age the wine for as long as they want. Sometimes, the producer will wait several years for the wine to attain the correct complexion.
Once the ageing process if through, all that’s left is to bottle the wine.
When this happens differs depending on the type of wine. White wines are generally ready for bottling after a couple of months. However, red wines may have to wait for two years or more before finding their way into the bottle.
After that, all that’s left is to send the bottles out to suppliers so they can be sold to people just like you.