A Photo Essay of Crush: Red Wine

The previous post showed the steps involved in making white wine. This time I'll show the crush process grapes go through to become red wine. While the basic steps are similar, there are a few differences. Depending on scale and the type of wine being made, a winemaker might choose to use either method. In this case the wine being made is a high quality, single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon crushed,fermented and cellared in small batches.

Start with a load of luscious Cabernet grapes from Napa. This was one of approximately 12 tons that were crushed in this batch.

The grapes are dumped a half ton at a time onto the sorting table.

The grapes are spread out evenly and the workers look for any foreign objects, pieces of vine, leaves, or critters (trust me - you don't want to know,) referred to as "MOG" (Materials Other than Grapes), that may have fallen into the gondolas when the grapes were picked.

The grapes ride the conveyor and enter a second hopper for a ride up to the destemming machine. Destemming removes harsh flavors that the stems and leaves can impart to the wine and helps insure a higher quality product. The grapes look juicy and delicious in this shot as they make the ride up to the destemmer at the top.

The destemmer houses a rotating stainless steel drum with holes in it that pulls the individual berries off the stems. The whole berries go into the fermentation tank. The stems collect in a container to be disposed of later. Here's a view of the destemmer from the back end.

The individual berries ready to go into the fermentation tank.

Leftover stems are collected in another bin.

The grapes then go through 4" diameter hose into one of the fermentation tanks.

Here's a photo of the tank barn. These tanks hold 3500 gallons each.

A shot from the top of the catwalk showing the hose heading into the tank.

The grapes sit for 24 to 72 hours in a process called cold soak. This allows the grapes inside the tank to reach the optimum temperature for fermentation and lets the natural yeasts that live on the skins of the grapes begin fermentation. Once the temperature is right, the tank is inoculated with the yeast. The fermentation process takes 7-10 days, but can vary depending on the outside temperature and the strain of yeast the winemaker uses. While the grapes are in the tank, the liquid that forms from fermentation is pumped up and over the solid material formed by the grape skins. Some winemakers do this by hand in open fermentation tanks using paddles or puncheons.

When fermentation is finished, the grapes are pumped back out of the tank and go into the press. This photo shows the presses in use.

The remaining grape skins are removed and discarded. Often the skins and stems are composted to be made into soil amendments.

The fermented wine is then put into barrels or back into holding tanks to age depending on the type of wine and the technique the winery uses. Only two years to go and the wine will be finished.

I'm hoping to get more photos of the winemaking process as the season progresses. Check back for additional photo essays in the future. I'll try to intersperse them my pithy (not) commentary on my experiences working in the wine industry.