Join Marilee at her next book signing event...
When: Saturday, May 26 from 1 to 3 p.m.
Where: Sundance Espresso in Selah (406 S 1st Street, Selah WA)
What: The Curse of the Rose and the Soul Seeker trilogy will be available
Deal of the Day: Buy any drink at Sundance Espresso and get $1 off your book purchase


From Vine to Wine

Here in the Yakima Valley, home to author Marilee Brothers, and myself, harvest of wine grapes in the month of October brings the goal of winemaking to the winemakers: to protect and nurture those characteristics of wine that come from the vineyard. At harvest, the emphasis shifts to the cellar, where the aim is to help the wine make itself in the best possible way. How does mere grape juice become the stuff of poetry and legend? Just what are the steps a winemaker takes and what happens in the cellar? Why is white wine white and red wine red?

With a few exceptions, the juice of all grapes, red and white, is almost colorless. The difference is that red wine is fermented with the red grape skins. Grape skins also contain tannin, the backbone of red wine, which allows for aging longer than white wine. Tannin is also found in grape seeds and stems and is a factor in making red wine. So, the winemaker must make a decision whether the stems should be removed before the grapes are crushed or not. With less tannic varieties, like grenache or pinot noir, winemakers may choose to leave the stems on because they do add some tannic strength. With the naturally tannic cabernet sauvignon, stems can add excessive bitter tannins to the juice.

The soupy mass of crushed grapes, juice, skins, pulp, seeds and possibly stems, is called the must and, after the grapes are picked, is the beginning of wine making, both white and red. Following is a brief outline of winemaking for red and white wines:

Red wines

  • Grapes are picked
  • Grapes are crushed, stems removed, or not
  • The must is put into a tank, usually stainless steel
  • Yeasts are added, if the winemaker is not relying on ambient yeasts
  • Fermentation begins (malolactic fermentation also begins or may occur later - converting very tart acid to softer acid)
  • Cap of skins is pushed down or pumped over the fermenting liquid
  • When fermentation is complete, wine is pressed off the skins
  • Wine is put into barrels to age
  • Wine is periodically racked (physically removing clear wine from the lees or sediment settled on the bottom of a container or moving wine from one container to another)
  • Wine is possibly fined and/or filtered
  • Wine is bottled


White wines

  • Grapes are picked
  • Grapes are crushed, stems removed, or not
  • Grapes are pressed; skins are removed; juice is put into tank
  • Yeasts are added, if the winemaker is not not relying on ambient yeasts
  • Fermentation of juice begins (malolatic fermentation may also begin, may occur later or may be prevented altogether)
  • When fermentation is complete, wine is left to sit in contact with lees (dead yeast cells, grape fragments, skins, seeds, stems)
  • Wine is racked off the lees if necessary
  • Wine is possibly cold stabilized
  • Wine is possibly put into barrels to age
  • Wine is possibly fined and/or filtered
  • Wine is bottled

This is a very brief look at how red and white (dry) wines are made. There are many elements of winemaking that give us, the consumer, the wines which create that poetry and legend for us.

Cheers,

Durella DeGrasse
Certified Wine Professional



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