Wine making is a long-established tradition – an art that has been developed and finely tuned over thousands of years. While the unique touches that an individual wine marker adds during the wine making process can be the difference between a good bottle and a great bottle, there are typically five common steps that lead to our magnificent end product. |
The Five Key Stages of the Wine Making Process
Grape harvesting is naturally the first stage, an act than can be done mechanically or by hand. Once the harvested grapes have been sorted, next up is the process of crushing and pressing, before commencing with fermentation. Fermentation can last anywhere between ten days to a month or more before the clarification stage begins. The wine is ‘racked’ into a new container such as an oak barrel or stainless steel tank and then clarified through either fining or filtration. Then last, but of course not least, comes the aging and bottling. Should you opt for a wine tasting on one of the many available Tuscany tours, be sure to quiz them on their approach to the above steps to understand what makes their wine unique! The Classic Tradition of Pigéage Perhaps the most intriguing phase of the wine making process is step two, whereby the harvested grapes are de-stemmed, pressed and crushed. Known in French as Pigéage, literally meaning ‘punching down’, the process is a vital step to developing high quality wine. Many wine makers today perform this mechanically, using presses that convert the grapes into a freshly pressed juice, complete with skins, seeds and solids, known as ‘must’. For white wines, the producer will be sure to swiftly press the grapes to then separate the juice from the skins, seeds and solids in order to mitigate against colour and tannins from absorbing into the wine. Red wine conversely will be left in contact with the skins to take on flavour and colour. While mechanical processes have helped enhance hygiene and quality in the wine-making routine, for much of history, this pressing was a fairly rudimentary endeavour, simply involving men and women stomping on the grapes with their feet. This practise can be traced back many hundreds of years and is one with a fascinating history that you could learn more about from the experienced guides who lead our Tuscany tours.
A commentary on French wine making during the period 300 – 400AD describes naked workers descending into giant vats of grape juice. (Don’t worry, this isn’t a practise that is re-enacted on the vast majority of Tuscany tours). Fastened by chains to overhead beams, the workers would then repeatedly raise and lower themselves using their bodies to mix the must, a perilous endeavour that carried with it the risk of drowning should one lose one’s grip, or even asphyxiation from the carbon gas emitted by the fermenting juice.
The Romans also employed similar methods, most especially at smaller wineries where wine presses could not be deployed economically. The juice obtained from treading was, in fact, also believed to have medicinal properties and highly valuable as a result, regarded as a means to heal various ailments of body and mind. Notable Roman figures nonetheless still cautioned against excessive consumption, with the likes of Lucretius warning that it could provoke a fury in one’s soul!
Rose Magers is an Australian-born Italophile and the founder of ArtViva. With an international reputation for excellence and creativity, ArtViva are at the forefront of escorted day tours in Italy. Rose has indulged her own passion for history and the arts by designing an innovative range of exceptional small group Tuscany tours and experiences, from hiking and biking through the Tuscan countryside to unforgettable villa visits.
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