‘Cheers’ as it is said in the United States. Last week I celebrated my 21st birthday! I was fortunate enough to spend it with my closest friends and family in Washington DC. Although I don’t feel any different, it is nice to know I can now publicly enjoy a glass of vino with dinner. Making the decision is the toughest part (considering I know nothing about pairing wines – that’s what my brother, Alex, is for). Therefore, I will not go into much detail regarding regions/types of grapes/etc., but I am going to give my best shot at explaining the process of wine making 🙂
Although ‘wine’ can be made by fermenting other fruits, it is generally made by fermenting grapes in a process similar to that of beer making. The grapes are first picked, washed, and mashed. In this step, the skin is either removed or left on, which determines if the wine is a white or red wine. The juice from teh grapes is then mixed with water, and then yeast (and sometimes sugar) is added. The fermentation of the yeast is what determines if the wine is dry or not. Sweeter, off dry wines are only partially fermented whereas dry wines are completely fermented. It is the dryer wines that have the highest alcohol content. The next step in wine making is termed ‘racking’. During this period sediments are settled out of the wine. Aging follows racking. This step is classically performed in oak barrels, which impart flavor and work as a filter. Nowadays, it is more common to age wine in stainless steel vats. After the wines are aged, they are often pasteurized to kill yeast and then bottled. Pasteurization can impart off flavors in the wine if not done properly. This is why a technique called cold pasteurization is used to filter and keep the wine cold, allowing better retention of flavor.
Sparkling wine and champagne production is different than that of regular wine. Champagne is not aged and extra sugar and yeast is added to the bottle before capping. This extra yeast allows for greater fermentation and CO2 production – causing the signature ‘pop’! Champagne bottles undergo a ‘riddling’ process in which they are slightly turned and tilted every day, allowing yeast to collect at the neck of the bottle. The bottle necks are then frozen to form a yeast pellet, which is what shoots out when you open the bottle! This method of champagne production is the classic method. Other methods include pumping CO2 into the bottle, in which you would not have a yeast pellet. It is also interesting to note that a ‘Champagne’ can only be considered as such if it is from the Champagne region in France and it is made the classic method.
That’s all for now! I will keep updating with my favorite new drink recipes as they are discovered!