Winemaking and viticulture the world over have undergone spectacular changes since the 1970s, with the introduction of new concepts such as the effective control of harvests, monitoring of the primary aromas of the fruit and proper order and hygiene in wine cellars. These new methods have been implemented and assimilated to such a degree in Spain that some of the most modern wineries in Europe are now located in this country. But even before the different methods of making wine can be applied, it is important to take into account certain key aspects that will influence the final product.
The grape harvest generally occurs between the end of August – beginning of September and mid-October, when the fruit has reached the desired degree of ripeness. The harvest is of vital importance, as this is when the first selection of the fruit is made: the success of the entire subsequent winemaking process will depend largely on the care with which this selection is undertaken.
Moreover, the fruit must be transported to the winery with the utmost care to ensure that the grapes do not undergo excessive pressure. If the grape is damaged or broken, it will lose its juice, causing undesired premature fermentation.
The Colour of Wine
The great majority of grapes used in wine making have pulp with the same colour -an opaque white to yellow-, regardless of their variety. The colouring pigments characteristic of, for example, red wine grapes, are nearly always located in the skin. Therefore, in the production of red wine, it is essential that this colouring material present in the grape skins transfers to the must. This explains the principal difference between making red and white wines.
The Extraction of Must
The extraction of must is the first process in the making of all types of wine. The harvested bunches of grapes are unloaded into a container shaped like a truncated pyramid reception hopper, from which they are then transported to the squeezer. There, the fruit is pressed, in a very precise process known as crushing, which breaks open the fruit's soft pulp but does not break seeds, stems and skins. These elements would contaminate the must with unwanted aromas and flavours, as well as raising its acid content. In the case of must destined to make red wine, a similar process, called stalking, removes all the stems.
The crushing process produces a thick paste consisting of the grepes' pulp skins, seeds and stalks. Avoiding contact with the air, this paste is moved into a series of presses to begin the process of winemaking.