VIEW THE MOBILE VERSION of Informational Site Network Informational
   Home - Wine Making - On Beer Making - Whiskey Making - Grape Growing


The manufacture and use of wine in America, as has been intimated, is
likely to cease through prohibition. Therefore, whatever may be said
of this product of the grape is of less and less interest to
grape-growers. However, a few years of grace probably remain for the
making of wines in America, and since wine-making yet offers the
greatest outlet for the grape crop, next to table-grapes, wine must be
considered as a factor in the grape industry.

Since the demand and price for grapes depend very largely on the kind
of wine to be made, it is necessary to characterize the wines made in
America. Wine, it should be said, is the product of alcoholic
fermentation of the grape. Alcoholic fermentations made from other
fruits are not, strictly speaking, wines. Natural wines are divided
into three broad groups; dry, sweet and sparkling wines. Dry wines are
those in which sugar has been eliminated by fermentation; sweet wines
those in which sufficient sugar remains to give a sweet taste; and
sparkling wines are those which contain sufficient carbonic acid gas
to give a pressure of several atmospheres in the bottle. The carbonic
acid gas is produced in sparkling wines by fermentation in the bottle
of a dry wine.

The color in these three classes of wine may be red or white,
depending on whether or not the color is extracted from the skins in
the process of fermentation. To make red wine, of course, the grapes
to be fermented must have red coloring matter in skin or juice or
both. Each of these groups of wine includes a very large number of
kinds distinguished by the name of the region, the locality or the
name of the vineyard in which a wine is made. Wines are still further
distinguished according to the year of the vintage.


There are four distinct stages in the making of wine after the grapes
are grown. The first is the harvesting of the grapes when they have
reached the proper stage of maturity, which is known as "wine-making
ripeness." This stage of ripeness is determined by means of a
must-scale or saccharometer. The wine-maker squeezes the juice from a
number of bunches of grapes into a receptacle into which he drops the
must-scale, whereupon the sugar-content of the juice is indicated on
the scale, determining whether the proper stage of ripeness has been
reached. Suitable varieties of grapes having been grown, it is
necessary that they be permitted to hang on the vine until the proper
degree of ripeness is developed, after which they are delivered at the
winery as free as possible from injury or decay.

The second stage is the preparation of the grapes for fermentation.
The grapes are weighed on arriving at the winery and are then conveyed
either by hand or more often by a mechanical conveyor to the hopper or
crusher. The ancient method of crushing, which still prevails in some
parts of Europe, was to tramp the grapes with bare feet or wooden
shoes. Tramping has been superseded by mechanical crushers which break
the skin but do not crush the seeds. The best mechanical crushers
consist of two-grooved revolving cylinders. As the grapes pass through
the crusher, they fall into the stemmer, a machine which tears off the
stems, discharging them at one end, while the seeds, skins, pulp and
juice pass through the bottom to the presses usually on the floor
below. There are several types of wine-presses, all of which, however,
are modifications of screw, hydraulic or knuckle-joint power. In large
wineries, the hydraulic press has almost driven out the other two
forms of power and when great quantities of grapes must be handled a
number of hydraulic presses are usually in operation. The grape
pomace is built up into a "cheese" by the use of cloths and racks
variously arranged. The "cheese" is then put under heavy pressure from
which the juice or "must" is quickly extracted.

The third stage is fermentation. The "must" is carried from the press
into open tanks or vats which hold from 500 to 5000 gallons or even
more. The yeast cells which cause fermentation may be introduced
naturally on the skins of the grapes; or in many modern wineries the
"must" is sterilized to rid it of undesirable micro-organisms and a
"starter" of "wine-yeast" is added to start the fermentation. Yeast
organisms attack the sugar and must, breaking it up into alcohol and
carbonic acid gas, the latter passing off as it is formed. When active
fermentation ceases, the new wine is drawn from the pomace and is put
into closed casks or tanks where it undergoes a secondary
fermentation, much sediment settling at the bottom of the cask. To rid
the new wine of this sediment, it must be drawn off into clean casks,
an operation called "racking." The first racking usually takes place
within a month or six weeks. A second racking is necessary at the end
of the winter and a third is desirable in the summer or fall.

The fourth stage is the aging of the wine. Before aging begins,
however, the wine usually must be rendered perfectly clear and bright
by "fining." The materials used in fining are isinglass, white of egg
or gelatine. These, introduced into the wine, cause undissolved
matters to precipitate. The wine is now ready for bottling or
consumption. Most wines acquire a more desirable flavor through
"aging," a slow oxidation in the bottles.


When champagne wines have gone through their first fermentation, they
are racked off into casks to age until their quality can be
ascertained, after which a blend of several different wines is made.
This blend is called the "cuvee." The cuvee is bottled and a second
fermentation starts. The bottles are now put in cool cellars, corded
in horizontal layers with thin strips of wood between each layer of
bottles. The champagne in this stage is said to be in "tirage." The
carbonic acid gas generated at this second fermentation is confined in
the bottles and absorbed by the wine. When the bottle is uncorked, the
gas, seeking to escape, produces the sparkling effect desirable in
sparkling wines. After the wine has been in tirage for one or two
years, the bottles are placed in A-shaped racks, the neck of the
bottle pointing downward so that the sediment formed during
fermentation drops to the cork. To further the settling of the
sediment, workmen turn or shake each bottle daily for a period of one
to three months. The bottles are then taken to the finishing room,
cork down and the wine is "disgorged." Disgorging is accomplished by
freezing a small quantity of wine in the neck of the bottle containing
the sediment, after which the cork is removed and with it the frozen
sediment. The bottle is refilled, recorked, wired, capped, and the
champagne is ready for shipment.

The vintage.

The wine-making season the world over is known as the "vintage." The
time at which the vintage begins depends, of course, on the region,
the variety of grapes, the growing season and the location of the
vineyard. Its duration, also, depends on these same factors. The
season is usually lengthened by the fact that wine-makers require for
their purposes a number of varieties of grapes which ripen at
different times. Before or during the vintage, representatives of wine
cellars usually make contracts for the number of tons of grapes
required at a certain price a ton.

The notion prevails that grapes for wine and grape-juice need not be
first-class. This is far from the truth. To make good wine the grapes
must be carefully harvested, transported with as little injury as
possible and must be protected from dirt, mold and fermentation before
reaching the winery. European vintagers maintain that grapes picked at
sunrise produce the lightest and most limped wines and yield more
juice. They say, also, that the grapes should not be gathered in the
heat of the day because fermentation sets in at once. These niceties
are not observed in America.

Prices paid for wine grapes.

Supply and demand regulate the price paid for wine grapes. There is
always demand for good wine grapes, although a poor product often goes
begging for market. In the East, the highest prices are paid for the
grapes used in making champagne. The champagne region of the East is
confined to a few localities along Lake Erie and to western New York
about Keuka Lake, where the industry is most largely developed. The
varieties used in champagne-making in the East are Delaware, Catawba,
Elvira, Dutchess, Iona, Diamond and a few other sorts. Prices differ
with the many conditions affecting the grape and champagne industries,
perhaps the average price for Catawba, the grape chiefly used in
making champagne in this region, being from $40 to $50 a ton. Choicer
grapes, as Delaware, Iona and Dutchess, often sell from $75 to $100 a
ton. Concords are sometimes utilized in making dry wines in the
eastern states, $30 or $40 a ton being the average price. Ives and
Norton are much used for red wines and sell for top prices.

Wine-makers in the East are at a disadvantage in producing wines other
than champagne, since the price paid on the Pacific slope for wine
grapes is much lower; Grapes for sweet wine in California often sell
as low as $6 or $7 a ton, the average price being $10 or $12. Grapes
for dry wines, such as Zinfandel and Burger, bring on the Pacific
coast from $10 to $12 a ton. Choice varieties of grapes in this
region, such as Cabernet, Sauvignon, Petite Sirah and Riesling, bring
from $22 to $24. The eastern wine-makers, however, have the advantage
of being close to the largest and best markets in the country. Wines
made in the East are very different from those made in California and
supply a different market.

A few years ago most of the Muscadine grapes grown in the South were
used for wine-making. From these grapes wine has been made since
colonial times, and for a century there have been some large vineyards
of Muscadine grapes in the South from which wine was made in a
commercial way. Since Muscadine grapes do not sell well in the markets
in competition with the grapes of the North or the Pacific slope, the
Muscadine grape industry has been dependent on the wine industry of
the section in which the fruit is produced. The growth of prohibition
in the South, however, has driven the wine industry to the North and
West and there is now little wine manufactured from Muscadine grapes
in the South, although some grapes are shipped North for wine-making.
The wine made from these grapes is very distinct in flavor and on that
account a special trade has been developed for it. It is possible that
this special trade will keep up the demand for Muscadine wine so that
some part of the crop may be shipped to wine-making states to supply
this demand.

Next: Grape-juice

Previous: Grape Products

Add to Informational Site Network

Viewed 2372