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Wine making...

The diversity and quality of wine, results from the kinds of grapes used, the distinctive qualities of the soil, the location and the climate.

Greek vineyards are cultivated on mountain slopes of up to 800m above the sea-level or at sea-level. The soil characteristics for the majority of the vineyards is rocky limestone. There is also a percentage that is cultivated on fertile plains. The vineyards are spread over great areas of land but occupy small amounts of it. 

The Greek landscape is ideal for unique microclimatic conditions favoring the cultivation of local grape varieties. The combination of a mild climate, a lot of sunshine and low rainfall make soils of moderate fertility and small crops of excellent quality.

All wines are made in a similar way, with variations depending on the type to be produced. The steps are:

  • harvesting,

  • crushing,

  • juice separation,

  • treatment of the mass of crushed grapes and juice (called the must),

  • fermentation,

  • post fermentation treatment,

  • clarification,

  • aging,

  • and bottling.

Wine is ultimately derived from the carbon dioxide in the air, which penetrates the leaves of the vine and is converted into starches. During absorption into the grape the starches are turned into the sugars fructose and glucose. During the fermentation process the sugars are converted into ethyl alcohol and carbon dioxide. The longer the grapes are left on the vine, the higher their sugar content will be.

At the winery the grapes are crushed and stemmed. Adding sulfur dioxide or rapidly heating the must suppresses the growth of wild yeasts and other organisms that grow naturally in the vineyard. Depending on the kind of wine, the juice may be separated from the skins in order to avoid getting skin pigmentation in the wine. In red-wine production the skins, seeds, and juice are all fermented together.

To aid fermentation, yeast  is added to convert the sugars to alcohol at different stages. Fermentation takes place in large vats, from which air is excluded to prevent oxidation and discourage the growth of vinegar-forming bacteria.

Fermentation takes from ten to 30 days. During the process, temperature control is necessary to promote yeast growth and to extract the flavors and colors from the skins (if skins are fermented). The best temperature for yeast growth is about 25 degrees Celsius.

After fermentation, the wine is drawn off to separate it from the sediment of largely dead yeast cells. Some wines deposit their sediment quickly, but other wines remain cloudy for long periods. The suspended particles must be removed by clarification. 

Wine is usually aged in wooden containers made of oak or redwood. The process allows oxygen to enter and water and alcohol to escape. Acidity decreases, additional clarification takes place, and the components of the wine form compounds that enhance flavor and aroma. The wood from the containers also contributes flavor. The wood-aging process may last many months or several years, depending on the wine and the quality desired.

Before bottling, wine may require blending, filtration, and the addition of an antiseptic agent to prevent microbe development. Some wines are aged in bottles before being sold. Red wines especially may profit from two to twenty years of bottle aging.

Portions of information copyright © 1993, 1994 Compton’s NewMedia, Inc.


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