Have you ever wondered how our grapes make it off the vine and onto the Apple Barn shelves? As you may already know, all of the grapes for our spectacular Kimmel wines are grown at the orchard. We partner with Whisky Run Creek Winery and Distillery to produce all of our wines with our home-grown grapes. But how are the grapes transformed into the bottle? This week's blog focuses on wine-processing and showcasing the steps a grape must go through before becoming a red or white wine.
STEP 1 - GROWING
The first step is fairly obvious, growing the grapes! At Kimmel, we grow a variety of different grapes ranging from red to white. Our red varieties include Chambourcin, DeChaunac, and Frontenac while our white varieties are Edelweiss, Lacrosse, and Vignoles. Grapes are largely affected by climate. The types of grapes grown at Kimmel are all cold hardy varieties. These varieties can withstand harsh winters and cold spring frosts that Nebraska is prone to. Because climate plays such a large role in grape's growth and development, different regions of the world are well-known for specific wines, as those grapes grow best in that region's climate.
STEP 2 - HARVESTING & TRANSPORTING
Another obvious step is harvesting! Just this past week our employees were in the field harvesting grapes. Grape harvesting at Kimmel usually occurs over a 2-week timespan. Our grapes are typically hand harvested by our orchard team. Hand harvesting is more time consuming and requires more labor, but the berries are handled more softly, and employees can be selective on the quality of the grapes. Once they are harvested, they are transported to Whiskey Run Creek for processing.
STEP 3 - DE-STEM/CRUSH
When the grapes reach the winery and are ready for processing, they are poured into a machine to be de-stemmed and crushed. De-stemming eliminates stems and crushing breaks the grapes down in order to release their juice. This creates a mixture of crushed grape juice, skins, and seeds known as a must. All the steps listed in this blog are focused on red and white wines, as grapes are not always de-stemmed such as in the process of making sparkling wines.
STEP 4 - PRESS & FERMENT OR FERMENT & PRESS
This step differs based on the type of wine being processed. For white wines, the must is pressed to separate the skins and seeds from the juice and then fermented. Pressing is performed first to keep the juice white. All grapes produce white juice and the red color is formed through the juice soaking in the grape skins. Therefore, in red wine processing, the must is fermented and then pressed to receive the red color. During fermentation, yeast is added to the juice or must to convert sugar into ethanol, the alcohol that makes wine so great!
STEP 5 - CLARIFICATION & STABILIZATION
Next, the wine is fined and filtered. This step impacts consumers' appeal, as we are used to seeing clear, haze free wine. Clarifying helps ensure the wine is appetizing to the eye. It also removes microbes causing the wine to be less susceptible to spoilage. At this stage, the wine is also stabilized to make the wine safe. Stabilization stops the fermentation process, so the bottles don't explode off the shelves (literally).
STEP 6 - MATURATION
Did you know there is a difference between maturing and aging? Maturing occurs while the wine is still in bulk storage such as a barrel or tank. Aging occurs after the wine is bottled. It is often thought that all wines must be aged for a long period of time, but in reality, 99% of wines should be consumed within 3 years of bottling. During maturation, the wine is exposed to air to improve the wine's flavor.
STEP 7 - BLENDING
Before the wine makes it the bottle, it is often blended with other wine to achieve consistency. This step does not always occur. Blending multiple batches together allows wine makers to achieve the same flavors, aromas, or textures a consumer is used to seeing or tasting in a specific type of wine.
STEP 8 - BOTTLING
Finally, the last step, bottling! Wine is usually bottled via a bottling machine, I know shocking! After this, our label is placed on the bottle, and the wine is brought back to the Apple Barn for sale. Wine-processing can be a long process but yields such a delicious end product.
This is simply a brief outline of the wine-making process, as a lot more goes on within each step. Winemaking is an art as well as science. It takes time and dedication to produce a truly good wine. Stop by the Apple Barn to pick up a bottle or better yet bottles! Dry, sweet, white, or red, there is a wine in our store for everyone!
Alyssa Rosenbaum - Education and Food Safety Intern