The aging process starts with the filtration process after the winemaker has determined that the fermentation process is over. This is quite a decision for the winemaker to make. Both red and white wines go through a filtration process. Filtration can be done with everything from a course filter that catches only large solids to a sterile filter pad that strips wine of all life. The process called "fining" can be used where substances are added to a wine to clarify them. Often, winemakers will add egg whites, clay, or other compounds to wine that will help precipitate dead yeast cells and other solids out of a wine. These substances adhere to the unwanted solids and force them to the bottom of the tank. The clarified wine is then racked into another vessel, where it is ready for bottling or further aging. Now is the time for red and white wines to depart once again to their own aging process.
White wines typically have a much shorter aging period than red wines. A few white wines (sparkling wines) go through the additional "malolactic fermentation" process described under the red wine category below. Typically, white wines are aged in their vats or barrels for an additional 9 months or more before being transferred to bottles for additional aging or distribution.
Red wines and a few white wines typically go through a secondary fermentation process known as "malolactic fermentation". What happens during this fermentation is that malic acid, which has a sharp flavor, is acted on by a special bacteria which is introduced. This usually takes place in a barrel set aside for this purpose. The result is that carbon dioxide is given off, and the malic acid is converted into lactic acid. This smooths the flavor and results in a wine that is softer in taste and has greater complexity. Once a barrel has been used for malolactic fermentation, there are always bacteria in the barrel and from that point forward it must always be used for wines intended for this kind of extra fermentation.
Red wine typically goes through this aging process for 9 months to two and a half years before it is transferred to bottles for additional aging or distribution.
During the bottling process a final dose of sulfite is added to help preserve the wine and prevent unwanted fermentation in the bottle. The wine bottles then are traditionally sealed with a cork, although alternative wine closures such as synthetic corks and screwcaps, which are less subject to cork taint, are becoming increasingly popular.
Well, it has been quite a process to go from the pruning of the vines during last winter to the wines in the bottle. The result is something that almost everyone can enjoy. There are so many variations of wine available that with a few wine tastings you will undoubtedly find a wine that is right for you. Enjoy!Back To Top
(This site was created as the final project in Jeff Diamond's Dreamweaver A class.)
© 2009 Ron Boles (updated 3/2/09)