Many people do not realize how much work and equipment is involved in making wine.
As a winemaker, in Europe in particular, I would often get the question: “but what is it that you do, wine makes it itself doesn’t it?“. Well, not exactly…
So with our friends at hisandherwine.com we have summarized in an Infographic what is required to make wine from grape to bottle. To put things in perspective, we have compared the traditional way that mostly uses hard work and passion, to the modern way that uses sophisticated equipment (and still passion as well most of the times).
Most organic, bio-dynamic or natural wine producers still use the traditional techniques. So we could also have titled our Infographic: Mechanized Vs ‘Natural’.
Read full detail for each step of the winemaking process below the Infographic:
Making wine involves several steps in order to transform grapes into a delicious wine. Each step can be executed differently, using different equipment. Every process influences the quality of the final product. Winemakers choose what and how to use every technique, according to their taste or the desired final product, like a Chef would for his food.
There is not one single way of making wine, like there is not one single way to cook chicken for example.
So let’s consider the various steps of winemaking: Traditional Vs Modern:
Tractor Vs horse
First thing you need to make wine, is a vineyard. Planting, training, pruning vines.
To work the land, plough, and spray the vines ( for protecting them from disease, vignerons (wine growers) used to use horses. They have now widely been replaced by more efficient tractors. But many organic or bio-dynamic vine growers have now come back to using horses in vineyards as it is more respectful to the land (less soil compaction) and the environment.
Harvesting Machine Vs Secateurs
To pick the grapes, you can either employ an army of grape pickers (vendangeurs in French) or use a harvesting machine.
The machine is obviously much faster, cheaper, and can work at night when temperatures are lower. Hand-picking is however more respectful to the grapes and generally more suitable to high-quality wine production.
Feet Vs Crusher
Once the grapes are picked, their juice has to be released from the skins so it can be fermented. Grape berries are crunched. Traditionally, this was done by stepping on the bunches. Modern equipment uses a crusher: two spinning rollers splitting the berries as they go through the gap.
Vertical Basket Press Vs Pneumatic Press:
To separate the grape skins from the liquid, grapes have to be pressed. This happens before fermentation for white wines, as the juice does not ferment with the skins. For red wines, the pressing happens after fermentation.
Traditionally, a basket press would be used, powered by hand or an animal. Today, pneumatic presses are the most common and qualitative machinery for pressing, though electric vertical presses are used too. A pneumatic press is a cylinder with an inflatable membrane in it which compresses the grapes extracting the liquid.
Stainless Steel Tank Vs Oak Vats & Barrels
To ferment and mature the wine, one needs one or several containers. In the old days wooden vats were the most common. Although obviously amphorae preceded them. Oak barrels were a practical way to transport wine because they wouldn’t break as easily as pottery containers. But it was also found that the wood helps refining and improving the qualities of the wine giving enjoyable flavors and texture. Hence their common use now.
Today, stainless steel tanks are seen in many modern wineries. They’re much easier to clean and maintain.
Electrical Wine Pump Vs Manual Plunger
For making red wine, color, tannins and aromas contained in the grape skins need to be extracted by either pumping juice over the skin cap (pump overs), or manually pushing the cap into the juice with a long stick and a plate at the end (a plunger).
Filtration Unit Vs Time
Like any fruit juice, wine naturally contains solids after the winemaking process. The wine has to be clarified by filtration using more or less sophisticated material (depth or surface filtration, diatomaceous, cellulose, cross-flow, etc). Alternatively, most wine would clarify itself with time. The solids sediment to the bottom of their container leaving a clear liquid to the surface.
At the end of all this, most wines, traditional or not, get bottled in a glass bottle whose use was generalized in the 19th century.