Wine is really nothing but fermented liquid fruit, handled carefully and patiently.
In it’s simplest form, winemaking boils down to these four steps:

  1.  Pick lots of ripe grapes. Grapes make the best wine, and more than 99% of all wine worldwide is mad of this fruit. However, peaches, pears, apples, berries, and other fruits are used, though much less frequently.
  2.  Put the grapes into a container that is leakproof. (Imperative, because it’s that juice that is the nectar of the wine.)
  3.  Crush the grapes in the easiest way possible. There is no need to “stomp the fruit” as was done long ago, but it makes for a great topic of conversation over a class of your home-made wine!
  4. Wait patiently.

Once grapes are crushed, tiny one-celled organisms called yeasts begin their work. The yeast cells are natural inhabitants of all vineyards, and when they join with the sugar in teh grape juice, the sugar is slowly converted to alcohol. When the yeasts’ work is completed, the grape juice is wine. The sugar has been replaced by alochol in a process called fermentation. The riper and sweeter the grapes, the more alcohol the wine will have.

Fermentation is a natural process that needs no intervention from man at all once the grapes are put into a container. Some of the first wines known to man were ones created by Mother Nature alone. (Actually, those apples in the Garden of Eden? I suspect some of them may have fermented spontaneously, leading to the “friendship” of Adam and Eve.)

Have you ever left fresh apple cider in your refrigerator past its expiration date? What you will find is actually an apple wine!

To be honest, wine made in our four easy steps is pretty crude, and would not inspire too many people to request a second glass. Today’s winemakers employ several diverse ways to manipulate the outcome, which explains why no two wines are ever identical.

They choose the type of types of grapes, and the maturity level of the fruit. They control the size and type of fermenting vessel, (usually stainless steel or oak), and the temperature during fermenting. Then they decide how long to let it mature and in what kind of container. Needless to say, winemakers are decision-makers!

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Amy Heydt
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