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Expert Lessons

How Wine Is Made

How Wine Is Made

A blending expert decants wine from a barrel at Judd's Hill in Napa. Photo © Jeremy & Claire Weiss/Day 19

F&W's Megan Krigbaum explains a grape's journey from vine to bottle.

1. HARVEST
Workers pick grapes and quickly truck them to the winery.

2. SORTING
Meticulously, workers pluck out rotten or unripe berries or clusters.

3. DESTEMMING
Removing grape stems prevents undesirable "green" flavors.

4. CRUSH
Grapes are squished, creating must—the mixture of juice and skins.

5. FERMENTATION
The must (without skins for white wine) goes into a stainless steel tank with yeast, which converts the sugars from the grapes into alcohol.

6. MALOLACTIC FERMENTATION
In some whites and most reds, bacteria convert naturally occurring malic acid into lactic acid, resulting in softer, rounder wines.

7. PUNCH-DOWN
Using paddles or even their bare feet, workers push floating skins into the juice to keep fermentation moving along.

8. BARREL-AGING
Some wines spend time (up to several years) in oak barrels, which allows oxygen in to soften tannins and flavors.

9. AGING ON LEES
Most red wines, and some whites, become rounder in texture and more complex in flavor thanks to contact with lees (dead yeast cells) that sink to the bottom of the barrel.

10. RACKING
Workers pump wines from one barrel to another to get rid of the lees.

11. BLENDING
A winemaker tastes samples from each barrel and creates the final combination, even for single-variety wines.

12. BOTTLE-AGING
Wines sometimes age in a winery cellar for months or years before release. This lets the tannins, acidity and flavors mellow and harmonize.

Related: World's Best Wine Tasting Experiences
DIY Wine Blending
Where to Make Your Own Wine

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