A Beginner’s Guide To Winemaking

Whether it’s a delicious rib-eye steak or a nice plate of chicken parmigiana, wine is a great addition to most meals. From a riesling to a chardonnay, the right wine can enhance the natural flavors of your favorite meals. For those chefs who want to have a hand in every aspect of their meal, then getting into winemaking is a natural step. As with any new culinary project, the process is more complex that you might think. It’s more than just smashing grapes in a barrel; in fact, winemaking is a science in and of itself. Before you say bottoms up, drink in these wine makingskills:

Winemaking kits 
According to the folks over at Wine Folly, crafting premium vino encompasses five key steps. Each phase is accompanied by several options, and your choice should also involve any personal preferences. However, the entire process involves assembling your winemaking kit. You’ll need the following supplies to complete your basic kit:

  • Fermenter.
  • Degasser.
  • Air locks.
  • Drilled bings.
  • Racking cane, tubing and clamp.
  • 24-inch plastic spoon.
  • Bottle brush.
  • Thermometer.
  • Hydrometer.
  • Cleaner or sanitizer.
  • Fermometer.

For those especially new to the craft, there are several winemaking start kits available online.

When to harvest
Perhaps more than anything, the timing of when a grape is picked can have an effect on taste and alcohol volume. The earlier a grape is harvested, the higher the acidity, which results in lower alcohol contnet and more fresh flavors and aroma. Picking a grape later will then result in lower acidity, which means a greater alcohol content and a much sweeter grape overall.

Effective maceration
This process refers to how much time the grapes touch the juice as it turns into wine. Different rates of maceration result in different wines. For instance, it takes two weeks for standard red wine, and nearly a month for a wine like Pinot Noir. As an extension of this, many winemakers rely on the cold soaking process. The lower temperatures often result in wine that is more bold and colorful.

Proper fermentation
This is the winemaking phase in which the yeast metabolizes, resulting in the actual alcohol. Winemakers basically utilize either cold or hot fermentation. The former relies on 100-degree Fahrenheit temperatures to make colorful red wines. The latter, meanwhile, involves temperatures near 42 degrees Fahrenheit and is meant for more aromatic wines.

Pump or punch?
The pump bit actually refers to a process called pumpovers. This is a way to forcefully remove chemicals called tannins, which make the wine taste dry. Meanwhile, punch downs are a slightly more delicate process, one that involves stirring the wine several times a day. This method can help remove oxygen during the fermentation stage.

Oak aging vs. steel aging 
The device you use to let the wine age each has it own benefits. On the one hand, oak barrels add hints of vanilla to the wine. These barrels also add in more oxygen, which can increase the tannin levels, thus making wines more fruity. On the other hand, steel barrels are more common for zesty wines like pinot gris. And because steel limits oxygen exposure, wines often last much longer.

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