Making wine is a lengthy process, involving many steps. The science of winemaking is known as Oenology. We’ve broken it down for you here into its six most basic components:
Harvesting. The first step, as you might expect, is to harvest the grapes from your vineyard. The quality of your grapes is the primary influencer determining the final quality of your wine. Your grape quality depends on several factors, including the growing season, the soil conditions, and the time of the harvest. (Grapes are typically harvested here from February through March.)
Sorting. Once your grapes are picked, they must be sorted. What you’re examining for is quality and ripeness, with only the finest grapes from your harvest making that final cut to become wine.
Crushing. The grapes that you select for your wine must next be crushed, a laborious, multi-step process, where first the grape stems are removed, only then to be crushed to release their juice. Although this process utilizes machines to sort the grapes, an important part of our tradition is our annual grape stomp. This mini-festival is a great way we can directly involve families and the community in the production of our wine.
Fermenting. Although the previous steps require most of the labor, it is this fourth step where patience first comes into play. You have to allow the juices time enough to settle that they can ferment. Fermentation usually takes between one to two weeks. During fermentation, the yeast converts the sugars in the juice into alcohol and carbon dioxide. Bacterial fermentation changes the malic acid into lactic acid. (This step is critical because it’s the lactic acid that softens the taste.)
Blending. When we speak of winemaking as an art form, although room for ingenuity, creativity, and experimentation certainly is present in all parts of the cycle, it is the blending process where the true masters of the craft emerge. In this phase, the grapes are blended in very particular combinations and sequence to achieve the desired flavors that will ultimately yield your unique taste. Special fining agents are applied to remove astringency and tannin particles. Gelatin is also added to clarify and purify the mixture, and to even further reduce its tannin content. Finally, a sophisticated means of filtration clarifies and “stabilizes” the wine. Filtration is specifically designed to remove any large particles still present in the wine, which may either negatively affect its taste or may hinder the pleasing, clear appearance you want in the finished product.
Aging. And now, the true marathon test of patience reaches its pinnacle. Aging wine to perfection takes months, years—even decades. The wine is stored in wooden barrels to give it time to develop, which maximizes its flavor, body, and potency.
Vintage Oaks has gathered some of the most passionate, skilled professionals working in the field today to design and execute on our planned vineyard. Construction will begin very soon on our very own planned vineyard! It is our sincere hope that our residents will feel as active a part of our winemaking process and our vineyard’s success as we are. When our vineyard is completed we will offer tours, education, tastings, special events and promotions to actively engage our residents in the lifeblood of Vintage Oaks at the Vineyard.
If you liked learning about the process of making wine, or if you know someone else who might enjoy learning about what we’re doing here at Vintage Oaks, we would be honored if you would share this article with them. We also love to hear from and connect with others who are passionate about wine or the vineyard lifestyle. Please come meet us on Facebook and Twitter so we can share our journey with you!