The wine-making process (6 steps + how to make wine at home)

Learn the secrets to making a perfect wine – from harvesting grapes through fermentation and aging.

We’ll also share a creative recipe to make your home-brewed wine with home winemaker kits. Find out how to purchase the best wines around the world.

A Quick Intro to Wine Making

You might be tempted to think that winemaking originated in a renowned wine region like France or Italy.

Georgia was the first to produce wine around 6000 BC. Archaeological evidence of early wine production has been discovered in China, Iran, Greece, Armenia, and Sicily.

According to an ancient Persian story, the first wine was created by a union of wild yeasts with wine grapes. The first wine was made by a princess who ate some rotten grapes to end her life.

It turns out that instead of killing her, the fruit made the princess giddy with joy!

You’ll discover a wide variety of wines today from around the globe, each with a unique winemaking process. This is thanks to new winemaking techniques.

Discover how grapes become a tasty drink by diving into the winemaking processes.

Six Key Steps to Winemaking

We’ll trace the six steps that lead a wine to the glass.

Red wine is made in a slightly different way than white wine, Rose Wine, or Sparkling Wine.

On its way from the grapes to your glass, every wine will go through some basic steps, such as harvesting, pressing, fermenting, and aging.


The secret behind a great wine is the quality of the fruit (apart from other factors.) It is affected by:

The harvesting period varies depending on the type of grape, the climate, and the hemisphere. In the Northern Hemisphere, the harvest is typically between early September and early November.

To make dessert wines, the grapes must be concentrated. They are harvested at the end.

You can either pick the grapes by hand or with a mechanical harvester. By choosing by hand, the winemaker can avoid grape skin damage and select the best fruit.

To speed up the process, mechanical harvesting is used to pick the fruit for commercial wines.

Vitis Vinifera is the most common grape variety in Europe. The most common Vitis vinifera red grapes are Pinot Noir Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Did You Know? Fruit wine (made of blackberry and plum) is very common in cooler climates like Northern America and Scandinavia. Blackberry wine is one of the most popular fruit wines.

Destemming & Crushing

Once high-quality grapes are selected, the winemaker then proceeds to destroy them. Destemming is separating the grapes from the stem (called rachis) to reduce tannin development in the wine.

After the grapes have been destemmed, they are gently squeezed in order to extract juice. In the past (and even sometimes today), grapes were crushed manually. Today, however, machines have taken over.

The stems of the grapes must be placed in the press when making white wines. The branches are placed in the media with the crushed grapes to help the juice flow past the skins.

The red grapes used to make red wines are normally destemmed prior to fermentation. This gives the wine a high tannin content and a vegetal scent. The winemaker can leave them in if they want higher tannins. This is only done when the stems are starting to brown.

The grapes of a delicate wine such as Syrah are not usually crushed. This preserves the aromas of the fruit.

The red and rose grapes must be macerated (the grape skins left submerged in grape juice) after destemming and crushing to give the wine color and tannins.


After crushing, the pomace (grape skin and juice) is pressed to separate the grape skins from the liquid.

The pomace is released into the air when the grapes are pressed. This juice, called free-run, is a significant amount. The squeezed juice is what is left.

Most winemakers prefer to use the free-run grape juice, which is of higher quality.

Some winemakers produce commercial wine using pressed grape juice. It has a stronger herbal note and is more tannic.

Pressing can be done at various times, depending on the wine style.

The must for red wine is pressed to extract tannins out of the skins of the red grapes.

Pressing the grapes before fermentation is done for rose and White Wine.


Fermentation is the process of using natural (or cultured) yeast to convert grape juice to wine.

Three steps are involved in the fermentation process.

A. Primary Fermentation

Primary or alcoholic fermentation is when the wine yeast eats the sugar in the grape juice and releases carbon dioxide and alcohol.

Wild yeast on grape skins is responsible for the majority of primary fermentation in crushed grapes.

Wild yeast can produce unpredictable results. It may lead to an incomplete fermentation or a vinegary odor. Most winemakers use cultured yeast.

Here’s an overview of the alcoholic fermentation process in winemaking:

The yeast cells multiply and begin to feed off the sugars found in the juice.

The winemaker keeps the temperature between 22-25oC for red wines and 15-18oC for whites.

Sugar content affects the alcohol level of wine. Around 16-19 grams per liter of sugar produces wine with a 1% ABV.

The winemaker may add sugar (called chaptalization) to increase alcohol levels if the wine does not reach the desired level of sugar.

The yeast cannot survive at high alcohol levels. As the alcohol level increases, the yeast goes dormant, and fermentation stops.

For a Dry Wine, the majority of the sugar ferments, whereas for Sweet Wines, the wine has residual sugar.

Cold Stabilization

After alcoholic fermentation, the winemaker performs cold stabilization.

This is the process of reducing tartrate crystals in wine. These crystals appear in the wine as sediment.

The wine is kept chilled for 1 to 2 weeks. The crystals stick to the sides of the fermenting vessel. The wine is then drained, and the crystals are left behind.

Malic acid can be harsh and bitter on the palate – which makes the wine unpleasant to drink.

The malolactic fermentation process is the conversion of malic acid into lactic acid, carbon dioxide, and water. This process also reduces the acidity in the wine. How it works:

To prevent oxidation, the wine is stored in an airlock fermenting tank (such as stainless steel tanks or oak barrels).

The proteins in grapes are broken down, and yeast cells, fine particles, and other substances settle at the bottom. This results in a clear and sparkling wine.

Malolactic fermentation is not usually done on lighter and more aromatic white wines, such as Riesling. Malolactic fermentation is used to give fuller whites, like Chardonnay, a buttery texture.


After fermentation, the wine is left in the fermentation tank with precipitates (like dead yeasts and pomace) that settle at the bottom of the fermenting vessel.

Clarification is the process by which the winemaker transfers the wine from one barrel into another to remove these sediments. Some winemakers use filters to clarify wine. However, this can alter the taste of the wine.

Fining is another way that winemakers clear their wines. This process uses substances such as egg whites or clay to help settle the solids at the bottom.

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