How to Make Rose and Red Wines
MAKING RED AND ROSE WINES
In contrast to white, red wine needs one important ingredient – colouring matter. As anyone who has peeled a black grape knows, grape pulp is the same grey-green colour whatever the colour of a grape’s skin. The pigments available to turn a wine red are all concentrated in the skin of the grape and it is vital, therefore, that red wines are fermented in contact with the skins.
The winemaker’s first job with red grapes is to separate them from the stalks which make the wine harsh if left in the fermentation vat. Some more traditional winemakers, and those copying them in newer wine regions, may leave a small proportion of the stalks in to add staying power if they feel it is needed, but the crusher-destemmer is usually the first piece of cellar gadgetry to which red grapes are introduced.
Inside the fermentation vat, the skins naturally float to the top of the pulpy mixture fed out of the crusher-destemmer and form a ‘cap’ that prevents oxygen spoiling the must beneath. If the winemaker wants to extract lots of colouring matter from the skins, he will make sure that the wine is often pumped over this cap, or that it is broken up by hand, or kept submerged by mechanical means.
Grapeskins are a principal source of another important element in red wine tannin. This is the stewed-tea-like substance that acts as a preservative while long-lasting red wine ages. If a winemaker is working with grapes of a really high quality, he will make sure that sufficient tannin is extracted from the skins during fermentation to keep the wine going strong, to allow time for its more complex fruit-based flavours to emerge in the years to come.
The heat generated by the process of fermentation helps to leech the pigments and tannins out of the skins. Red wines are allowed to ferment at higher temperatures than whites to encourage this, and some winemakers even heat the must.
Red wines are almost always fermented out to make a dry wine, using up all the available sugar, though very alcoholic wines can taste ‘sweet’. The must/wine is left in contact with the skins for anything up to three weeks, depending on how dark and tannic the winemaker wants to make the wine. Roses are traditionally made by leaving the skins in contact with the juice for only a few hours. Winemakers who want to produce a red wine with lots of colour but very little tannin use some variant of the technique called maceration carbonique which involves fermenting red grapes very briefly in a vatful of carbon dioxide, crushing as few grapes as possible. This is very popular in Beaujolais and many areas of southern France.
With the more traditional method, the assorted solids left in the fermentation vat after the wine has been run off are pressed firmly and the resulting liquid fermentedto produce ultra-harsh ‘press wine’, the opposite of the soft, fruity liquid produced by maceration carbonique. This may be added to give additional body to the wine produced by the initial fermentation, or it may be served up with staff meals to give additional body to the workers.