LESSON ONE: Making Red Wine


As we dive into red wines, we will use a similar approach to how we covered the whites.  In the same way vineyard influences can greatly impact the end result you taste and smell in a red wine, the choices the winemaker makes can have just as much of an impact.  Single grape varietals can be light and bright to big and bold.  Let’s deep dive some of the most relevant varieties and what makes them unique and amazing.



Step 1: Grape Harvest 

  • Just Ripe grapes have been determined by the vinter to have the perfect amount of sugar, acid and flavor
  • Late harvests are not a typical strategy for red wine varietals, however, multiple harvest paths through the vineyard can be made to ensure consistency or to achieve specific goals of the winemaker based on the amount of sugar, acid or tannin desired for the style of wine desired

Step 2: Crushing

  • Vintners can remove stems from the grapes prior to crushing or crush grapes stem and all 
  • Crushing is typically done by machine, although some vintners still use age-old foot stomping, but this is very rare

Step 3: Alcoholic Fermentation

  • Grape skins, and sometimes seeds and stems, are fermented with the grape juice to create color and add tannins to the wine, since these float to the top of the tank, winemakers must continually keep them well mixed for maximum impact through the process of “punching” them down to the bottom of the tank, or pumping the fermenting juice back over them to get continuous contact
  • Yeast occurring naturally on the grapes can start the fermentation process, but often additional yeast is added to speed the process or achieve specific results
  • Red wines are fermented at warmer temperatures than white wines

Step 4: Pressing

  • This step separates the juice from the skins, pits and stems 
  • Multiples presses may take place with juice from the initial, first press often being used for a winemaker’s best wines

Step 5: Storage & Maturation

  • Most red wines spend time in either stainless steel tanks or oak barrels prior to being bottled or packaged
  • Vintners mature red wine in stainless steel tanks if they do not want to introduce additional flavors into the wine from oak barrels.  
  • Vintners mature red wine in oak barrels if they want to add flavors such as smoke, charred wood, chocolate, or coffee flavors to the wine, extensive maturing in oak continues to impact a wines flavor over time

Step 6: Bottling / Packaging

  • While boxes, cans and other options are now used, glass bottles are still the most frequently used vessel for wine
  • Wine bottles can be sealed with traditional cork, synthetic cork or screw tops depending on the winemakers preference and should not necessarily be considered an indicator of the quality of the wine