Farm to Bottle: Every Bottle of Wine has a Story
Whether you’re indulging in a glass of chardonnay or saving your next bottle of Pinot Noir for your upcoming backyard get-together, there’s nothing like the soothing feeling you get from enjoying a glass of wine. Setting up the table for your Texas wine tasting or dinner party calls for picking the perfect wine, too. But there’s a whole process that goes into producing a single bottle of wine. If you’re a wine lover or even just a newbie, it’s worth knowing the ins and outs of winemaking preparation right here in Texas.
Here’s what happens behind the scenes:
Planting the Vines
There is a whole art in planting vineyards to help them yield the best results. Several factors may impact the yield of a vineyard, such as the types of grapes used, the space of the vines, and how many rows you plant. The acreage of the vineyard also impacts the yield. For every acre in the vineyard, most growers can yield between two and ten tons of grapes. This amount can equal up to 7,200 bottles of wine. This can be a very labor-intensive process, which is partially why many wineries work with multiple vineyards. For instance, Lewis Wines of Johnson City, Texas, works with a variety of grape growers and vineyards across Texas.
Some Texas wineries like Spicewood Vineyards of Spicewood, specialize in estate-grown grapes. Other vineyards take special measures to increase the yield of their grapes. For instance, Kuhlman Cellars in Stonewall uses clay on top of limestone and mineral deposits to achieve the ideal hydration level for its grapevines. Moreover, some wineries have several acres of land space to accommodate their yield. For instance, Lost Oak Winery of Burleson has five acres of cultivated land on its 52-acre plot. of Stonewall has over one hundred acres on its property with 17 planted to around a dozen different wine grape varieties, such as Tempranillo and Touriga Nacional.
Harvesting wine grapes also calls for retrieving them at the right time. The late summer and early fall months are usually the best time to harvest grapes for most North American wineries. Texas wineries are very often in the early part of this range, so much of the most laborious parts of the winemaking process occurs during the hot days of late July and early August. So, it’s likely much of the laborious parts of the winemaking process occurs during late July and early August. There is a special order for harvesting wine grapes, too. For instance, grape growers first harvest white grapes such as Chardonnay, Albarino, and Viognier. Harvesting these wine grapes early makes it easier to keep acidity levels high, and the resulting wines crisp. As grapes ripen, they contain more sugar, but less acid, and if red is darker.
Pressing the Juice
After picking the grapes, the fermentation process begins. Wineries of the past have engaged in grape stomping as a way to get the juice from wine grapes, nowadays this is used solely as a form to celebrate harvest coming to an end. But if you wanted a whole bottle of wine, you would have to press about 600-800 grapes. Luckily, today’s wine pressing processes are more advance. It’s common for vineyards to use machinery to help with grape pressing. This process helps to separate the juice from the seeds and skin before the next step of fermenting the grapes.
Barreling to Bottling
After picking and pressing the grapes, the fermentation process begins. This process is what helps convert sugar into alcohol and accelerate alcohol levels. Yeast is essential to the fermentation process in order for this to occur. A winemaker may use commercial yeast to speed up the fermentation process. Winemakers may also practice wild fermentation, which is when they wait on the grapes’ natural yeast to help with fermentation. However, this process takes much longer and gives less control to the taste and style of the wine. The fermentation process involves barreling to get the wine the flavor and taste you may enjoy before it’s transferred into a bottle for your enjoyment. With barrel fermentation and barrel aging wineries use oak to influence the taste of your wine. Then your wine is bottled either by hand or machine.
Winemaking truly is a labor of love, and this behind-the-scenes look of the winemaking process unfolds all that’s involved. From planting the vines to barreling to bottling, there’s a ton of love that goes into winemaking. The next time you drink a bottle of wine, think about what went into producing it. Share the love and labor at your next wine tasting event or backyard get-together for a memorable event. And remember; every bottle has its story.