The growth and harvesting cycle of grapes is a detailed process. A delicious and versatile fruit emerges from seemingly nothing, able to be turned into all manner of other products - including wine! But several steps take place between the harvest and that end goal. After the harvest season, where do the grapes go and what do they do?
Crush or Press?
Depending on the type of grape, the immediate step after harvesting might be different. Red wines and white wines require different treatment, partly for the sake of color and partly for taste.
Red Wine Grapes
Because one of the hallmark traits of red wine is the color red, these grapes have to be crushed with their skins intact to achieve the shade. Most of them will first go through a “destemming” step before being crushed in order to avoid the bitter tannins that are contained in the grape stems. These grapes are then crushed into a substance referred to as “must,” which is essentially grape juice.
White Wine Grapes
White wine grapes are typically allowed to skip the crushing process, as they do not need to pick up any additional color from their skins. Instead, they are pressed - fruit, seeds, and stems - and the juice is left to await fermentation.
After being crushed or pressed, the must be produced by both types of grapes is ready for fermentation. This process primarily involves adding yeast to the grape to begin the process of fermentation. While there are often enough naturally occurring sugars and the other compounds the yeast feeds on, adding extra nutrients for the yeast can help to shape the body and flavor of different types of wine. There are also many different varieties of yeast, all of which have their own unique properties.
Fermentation is a crucial part of what happens to grapes after they are harvested. Without it, there can be no wine. Every facet of fermentation can affect the final profile of the wine.
Once the fermentation process has been completed, the remaining product must go through a clarification process to remove undesirable pieces and sediment that come either as a result of crushing or fermentation. Red wine may go through a “pressing” process at this point to achieve what white wine grapes do right away. The clarification might also be achieved by pouring wine into a different barrel, either with or without a filter.
Bottling and Aging
The final step for the grapes is to be bottled or aged. Some wines are bottled immediately, while some are left in barrels or other containers to age and mellow. The choice depends entirely on what the wine is meant to achieve and its desired profile and tasting notes. Oak barrels are a common choice for aging, but aging can also be done in bottles or tanks.
Ultimately, all of this complex process is done to get the grapes from the vine to the bottle. The life of a grape is fascinating, and what can be achieved with them is boundless! At ELLMAN, we work closely with our team including Winemaker, Andy Erickson, and Vineyard Manager, Mike Wolf, we are confident in our product which is home-grown here in Napa Valley. We express the utmost gratitude for being able to share our journey with you as we continue to pursue our vision and write our own story.
If you are looking for some of the most beautiful wineries in Napa, ELLMAN has to be one of the ones that make your list. One of the premier family-owned wineries in Napa, ELLMAN is led by winemaker Andy Erickson. To try our wines, you can join us at our Napa tasting room - book your reservation here. To learn more about the ELLMAN family, check out this page. We hope to see you at ELLMAN Napa family vineyards soon!