How is red wine made?
Dec 9, 2021
Like an intriguing tattoo, red wine has a story to tell. Having been around for thousands of years and enjoyed by the ancient Egyptians and Romans, its alluring popularity is clearly apparent.
But how is red wine made? From growing grapes all the way through to bottling wine, here’s everything you need to know about how this indulgent drop is made.
Growing wine grapes
Red wine grapes need to grow outdoors. They’re robust and can tolerate a wide range of soil types, but it needs to be of rich quality for the plants to develop healthy roots. Bad soil can restrict vine growth, which can affect the longevity of the plant as well as hinder fruit yields.
In addition to fertile soil, growing wine grapes over sloped terrain allows roots to have the appropriate drainage. Roots drenched in water result in the plant not being able to take up the nutrients it needs to grow. Slopes also enable the plants to receive ample amounts of sunlight, which aids the photosynthesis process of the budding vines.
Lastly, climate is an integral factor to the success of producing a luscious crop. Wines such as Pinot Noir, Merlot and Cabernet Franc thrive in cooler climates, resulting in higher acidity and a lighter body. Whereas a mischievous Zinfandel, Shiraz or Cabernet Sauvignon prefer warmer climates, producing an intense, fuller bodied but lower acidity red wine.
Growing wine grapes can be a lengthy process but trust us — it’s worth it. From infant vines to yielding fruit, the entire cycle can often take up to 3 years, if not more, depending on the vines’ growing conditions.
The French term ‘Veraison’ is the process in which grapes develop from their young, green state into rich, mature purple skins.
Once veraison has started, grapes can take from 30-70 days to be ripe enough to create a smooth, juicy red wine.
Time of year for harvesting grapes varies depending on location. Wine grown in Europe and North America tends to experience grape harvest between August and October when the grapes are at peak ripeness. Whereas grapes grown in the Southern Hemisphere, places such as Australia, South America and South Africa, will harvest earlier, typically between February and April.
There are two ways to harvest a grape from the vine. Hand harvesting is a manual process but undoubtedly has its advantages. It provides much more precision, allowing for minimal skin damage.
Mechanical harvesting is a much faster way of harvesting grapes, but presents the risk of damaging and macerating grape skins. Broken skins can suffer oxidation, which can compromise the aroma of the wine.
Grape fermentation and pressing
Once harvested, the wine grapes enter the next phase of the winemaking process, called ‘must’. This is when the grapes; juice, skins and seeds are combined and the dark secrets of the wine start to spill out.
Winemakers will then add yeast to begin the fermentation process. The yeast will rebel against the mixture and convert the sugar in the grape juice into alcohol, carbon dioxide and heat. Whilst this is occurring, the yeast from the solution will push skins upwards, forming a large collective of skins called ‘the cap’.
At least once, if not several times, a day, the cap needs to be broken and blended back into the liquid, otherwise known as “punching down the cap”. By doing this, it protects the wine, drawing out flavour and colour from the skins as well as dispersing built-up heat.
After the fermentation process is complete, the next step is to press the red wine grapes. Grape pressing is when winemakers extract the juice from the grapes by either separating the skins and seeds by hand or using a wine press.
Red wine blending
For red wine making, there is no specific time to start blending; it’s all down to the individual winemaker. Blending can start as soon as fermentation is complete, whilst others may wait up to 6 months to a year before starting the process.
To begin, winemakers first create their ‘base blend’, which they build on. Often red wine blends start with large percentages of wine before moving into the smaller percentages. This allows winemakers to experiment with different tastes and complexities until they achieve a satisfactory blend.
Revolutionizing the Red Blend space with a unique and bold twist, Apothic Red breaks the rules of traditional blends by offering the unexpected in every sip. Apothic Red features a blend of Zinfandel that provides notes of dark fruit, Syrah, which brings a touch of spice, along with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, both providing decadent layers of dark berries. This all comes together to form a masterful blend that indulges the senses with notes of black cherry, soft vanilla, mocha and a hint of mischief, all with alluring intensity and a luscious, silky smooth texture.
Winemakers sometimes combine the different barrels of wine in a blending tank before returning to a barrel and leaving the red wine blends to age further.
Filtration and bottling wine
When the wine is mature, the final stage of red wine production is to filter and bottle.
Filtering wine sifts out any residual yeast and microbes and helps prevent the wine spoiling. Some winemakers might choose not to filter their wines before bottling, as they believe it can affect the taste. However, without filtering, the wine runs greater risk of spoilage from any remaining bacteria. Therefore, it is advantageous to filter rather than not.
Now you’re familiar with how it’s created, your next indulgence in a glass of red wine is sure to light up your palate. From a classic such as our silky smooth Apothic Cab to wintery favourites for those in touch with their dark side like Apothic Dark, our silky reds are bound to excite the appetite and indulge the senses.
So, what are you waiting for? Open your night to endless possibilities with a glass of Apothic.