Essentially, it is fermented grape juice, but with a few extra twists. God saved a few pieces ofEdenand one of the best is the fact that any fruit containing sugar will turn to booze if you leave it to ferment. In the process of fermentation, yeast converts the sugar into alcohol. Vintners labor over what precise strain of yeast to use in their recipe because different choices will obviously lead to different results.
Most people believe that green grapes make white wine and red grapes make red wine. That is largely true, but you should know that white wine could also be made from red grapes. The inside of red grapes is essentially white — it is only their skin that is red. And most wines are made with just the inside of a grape. Allowing the fleshy interior to mix with the pulpy skins when it is being crushed creates the red color in red wine. This process infuses red wines with “tannin,” an ingredient that gives red wine its distinctive flavor. And if you did not know, most champagnes are made from red grapes. Funny, but true.
The grapes are crushed with or without the skins and then left to ferment. The nasty bits are removed from the juice and a disinfectant is used to neutralize any contaminants, such as mold and bacteria, which may have been on the grapes. The fluid is then left to complete the fermentation process in either big steel vats or small wooden barrels — barrels call for a longer process and are harder to keep at the right temperature, but supposedly lead to a better finished product, for which you of course will end up paying more. Once the wine is properly fermented, the vintner will need to pluck out all the little bits and then mature the clarified wine. The better vineyards will age the wine for years in oak barrels, which infuses the wine with positive woody hints. The lamer vineyards will shove the stuff in a steel vat just long enough for it to be squirted into cardboard boxes with plastic spigots.