- Ancient Egyptians, Europeans and other cultures fermented grapes and other fruit into wine more than 5,000 years ago, long before the sweeping professional vineyards of the Napa Valley and France came into existence. Historians date winemaking as far back as 6,000 B.C. in the regions of Iran and Israel. References to wine also exist in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics. Workers unearthed the oldest known bottle of wine in 1867 while building a house on a vineyard in Germany. The bottle, found buried in a Roman box, dated to 325 A.D., according to wine enthusiasts group Professional Friends of Wine.
Red Vs. White
- The difference in process between making red and white wine revolves around the grape skins. When winemakers press red grapes into a substance called must--one of the very beginning stages of winemaking--the grape skins are left intact to help provide rich colors and flavor and to assist in the fermentation process. When making white wines, vintners immediately whisk away the grape skins, which can taint the color of the final product.
The Overall Process
- Winemaking begins with the harvest of grapes. These must be perfectly ripe to ensure best possible quality. In large winemaking operations, consultants, winemakers, vineyard managers and proprietors generally decide together when grapes are ready, based on taste, appearance and other factors. After the harvest, winemakers crush and press grapes in mechanical presses. Yeast is introduced to the pressed grapes to begin the fermentation process. This process creates the alcoholic properties and determines the sugar levels for dry or sweet wines. Winemakers then filter the wine in a process called clarification, removing solids from the liquid. Wine is then aged, either in vats or bottles, before hitting the market.
- Several regions throughout the world produce fine wines. Among the most popular, the Chablis region in France is known for fertile grape grounds enriched with limestone. Basalt-rich soils in the Basilicata region of Italy create fertile ground for vineyards. And the rich soils of California's Napa Valley make it the most well-known winemaking region in the United States.
- Several natural characteristics of vineyards, including soil type, weather patterns, climate and temperature, dictate the types of grapes that can be successfully grown by a professional winemaker. Water quality--including salinity or salt levels--affects the way grapes taste and the ultimate flavor of wine produced. These different characteristics and natural factors contribute to the distinct flavors present in particular regions.