While wine can certainly be made from a variety of different vegetable matters, most wines are produced from grapes. Ironically, grapes commonly grow in areas where it is difficult if not impossible to grow other crops. Bordeaux, France is known for producing some of the best grapes, and wines, in the world; however, at first glance the unfertile, stony ground in that region would seem an unlikely growing region. In order to completely understand the process of making excellent wine, it is important to understand how grapes are grown and harvested. This is especially important if you wish to grow your own grapes for the purpose of winemaking.
There are actually more than five thousand different varieties of wine grapes. There are only two broad families; however. They are Vitis Vinifera and Vitis Labrusca. Vitis Vinifera is a European type of grape and include Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Riesling. Vitis Labrusca includes American grapes such as Concord, Catawba, Delaware and Niagara.
The process of growing grapes is known as viticulture. Factors such as soil, color, chemicals, geology, topography and climate are all important to that process. In most cases, grapes begin to bud during the spring and then grow and develop fruit during the summer.
During the growth period, it is extremely important to minimize the growth of the leaves, so as to allow more sunlight to reach the grape cluster. Attentive growers must also take care to be on the watch for indications of disease, pests and of course, drought.
By early fall the grapes are reading for harvesting. The exact time at which grapes need to be harvested can depend somewhat on the local climate as well as your own personal judgment.
The phase during which grapes begin to change color is known as vèraison. This is an especially important phase for red or black grapes. Regardless of what color they will eventually become, all grapes begin as dark green and hard. It is only during the ripening phase in the sun that they begin to take on their true color. It is during this time that white varieties of grapes will begin to achieve their golden hue and red varieties of grapes will begin to take on their deep purple hue.
The natural sugar content as well as the ripeness of grapes determine the appropriate time for harvesting. When grapes are typically ready to harvest, the leaves on the grapevines of white varieties will begin to turn yellow while the leaves of red varieties will take on a red hue.
You may have wondered what accounts for the different price of wines when you purchase them in a wine store. The most expensive wines are produced from the first pressing of the grapes. This is frequently referred to as free run wine. Second and third pressings of the grape juice results in wine that referred to as press wine. Press wine is less expensive than free run wine because it is typically not of the same quality. Most press wine lacks the smoothness of free run wine. This is the great advantage of being able to grow your own grapes and then press them for your personal wine. You can have the advantage of enjoying first press wine and the smoothness that is associated with it.