Basic wine making consists of 5 main steps: harvesting, crushing and pressing, fermentation, clarification, aging and bottling. Arguably, one of the major factors when it comes to flavor is the time at which the grapes are harvested. If picked early, the wine can be bitter or sour due to the lack of sugar content. If picked late, the wine will be sweeter. Winemakers will often taste the grapes to determine the perfect time to harvest. After the grapes are harvested, they are crushed, releasing their juices. Next the winemaker has to decide if the skins, seeds and stems will stay in the mixture, now referred to as must. Leaving the skins in the must will give the wine a pink or red hue, depending on how long it is left to mingle. This may produce wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Syrah and Zinfandel. Removing the skins will give a clear or yellow color to the wine. This may produce wines such as Chardonnay, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio. Next the must is fermented. A winemaker may choose to inoculate the grape juice with a yeast starter or may choose to let airborne yeasts convert the juice to wine. The length, temperature and location of fermentation (steel fermentation drums or casks) impacts the final taste of the wine. After the fermentation process, the wine may be filtered to remove any particles that may give the finished wine a cloudy appearance. Lastly the wine is bottled and aged to achieve the final flavor profile.
So now that we know the basics of wine making, let’s talk about what actually makes wine different. Two major factors control the flavors found in wine: the variety of grapes and weather conditions in which they are grown. Different grape varieties produce different levels of sugar and tannins, the chemical that creates the dry taste in wines. During the cultivation, sun exposure, temperature and rainfall can further alter the taste of the grapes.
Rosé and sparkling wine are in their own categories. Rosé is made in a similar way to white wine however, the skins are left in the must and are removed after a few hours, leaving pink or blush color in the wine. True champagne only comes from Champagne, France. All others are simply sparkling wines. Cremant is sparkling wine made in other regions in France and Prosecco is sparkling wine made in Italy.