I’m writing today to explain the basic principles of red winemaking. The easiest way to do this is to use the analogy of making a cup of tea (without milk).
When you make a brew, you can affect how it tastes, through….Temperature – how hot the water is. Agitation – how much and how vigorously you stir it. The variety of tea – different varieties vary in strength of flavour and tannin content (tannin being the stuff that makes your cup brown and has a drying effect in your mouth). Now, you can decide what your tea is going to be like by altering these factors dependent upon what you like to drink and whether you work in construction or not.
Red winemaking is essentially the same. Fermenting at higher temperatures will mean that more flavours and tannins (which occur in grapes, not just tea) will be extracted.
The more I agitate the wine, the more I will extract. Lastly, different grape varieties have thicker skins and more tannin in them. So, as with most things, it’s about achieving a balance dependent upon the wine you want to make.
I have been fermenting my wine at around 22ºC which is pretty low for red wine. By doing this, the wine has retained a really nice fruity and floral smell.
When it comes to stirring the grape skins, the wine has to be mixed daily to keep the grape skins (that have floated to the top due to being raised there by the carbon dioxide produced by the fermentation process) from festering on top. These floating grape skins are collectively called the cap. I have mixed my wine using a technique known as plunging which basically involves pushing the cap down into the wine with a stainless steel stick. By mixing , I’m making sure that the cap stays wet and that the temperature throughout the tank stays the same. I’m also extracting the amount of tannin that I want.
We all know that there’s no alcohol in tea (unless you like a dab of whiskey in your brew). In wine however, there is, which affects how much tannin is extracted from the grapes. The more alcohol, the more extraction of tannins (alcohol is a solvent). My wine will have a decent ;amount of alcohol in (due to the level of sugars in the grapes) which is another reason why I have been mixing only twice a day at lower temperatures. To bring you up to speed, the wine has finished fermenting and it is now going to stew for a while doing something that we call post-ferment maceration. That’s the subject of another post though…
Thanks and Adéu