C: Process

We will explore the details of each step in making white and red wines in Module’s 3 and 4.  For the purposes of highlighting the main stages in wine making, DOMSOM simplifies the process to the following:


  • Harvesting the grapes – this typically happens in multiple phases as grapes in the vineyard do not all ripen at the exact same time, first harvest is often considered the best and used for the winery’s premium wines
  • Sorting / Destemming – this is the winemaker’s choice whether to do so or not depending on the style of wine desired, stems do influence the final wine’s flavor
  • Crushing – centuries of stomping grapes by foot have been replaced largely by machine crushing, but if you ever get a chance to foot stomp, do so!
  • Fermentation – while the basic formula of Sugar + Yeast = Alcohol + CO2 is the same, this step differs between white and red wine as for white wines where the grape juice is separated from the skins to avoid any skin color bleeding into the wine, while red wines get their color from prolonged contact with the skin
  • Storage – before wines are bottled, they spend anywhere from a few weeks to years stored most commonly in either stainless steel tanks or oak barrels
  • Bottling – while glass bottles are most common, cans, boxes and other innovative wine packaging is becoming more common
  • Aging – many wines are meant to be consumed as soon as they are bottled and distributed, but some wines benefit from months, years, even decades of waiting… patiently… with significant self-control and anticipation as they become more complex, more balanced and more amazing
  • DRINKING! – Since this is our favorite step at DOMSOM, we had to include it!
Wine making for white wine and red wine differs slightly, but the general process follows these steps,.

Modules 3 and 4 will inform you on many of these as they relate to white wine making and red wine making.  In addition to the traditional winemaking steps for whites and reds, winemakers have numerous other choices they can make to create the exact style of wine they want to produce.  DOMSOM could write chapters on these processes, but for purposes of this course, we’ll limit our enthusiasm to two:  blending and sweet wines.

Blending can happen at multiple stages of the winemaking process and in multiple ways:

  • Blending different vintages or harvests of a specific variety
  • Blending wines from different vineyards or even regions
  • Blending different varietals altogether (If a blend is made from different varietals, these are typically listed on the wine label and are often even broken down by the percentage of each varietal in the wine)

Sweet wines can be created by any of the following processes during winemaking:

  • Adding sweetness to a dry wine after fermentation
  • Removing yeast (filtration) or killing yeast (by adding alcohol) to stop fermentation before complete leaving some remaining sugar in the wine
  • Picking grapes late in harvest when sugar levels are so high the yeast cannot turn them all into alcohol leaving some remaining sugar in the wine