How Wine is Made

How wine is made at a winery in the Napa Valley

how wine is made

Harvested grapes ready for the stainless steel fermenting tanks

The steps in making wine: When you visit a winery for the first time, you should take a tour if one is available. A good wine tour will take you to each area of the winery where the winemaking process takes place. It will give you a greater appreciation and love for wine.

  • The grapes ripen in late August or September depending on the seasonal climate conditions. The winemaker tastes the grapes, chews the seeds, and measures the sugar content to decide when to harvest the grapes.
  • Vineyard workers then work to harvest the grapes in the shortest possible time. The harvested grapes are dropped into bins that are trucked to the winery where they are crushed.
  • This is the spot where red wine differs from white wine. When the grapes are crushed, the skin and seeds remain with red wines but the skins and seeds are removed for white wines.
  • The juice, skins, and seeds (not for white wines) are poured into stainless steel fermenting tanks.
  • The winemaker usually adds cultured yeast to this grape juice. Fermentation begins when the yeast begins to digest the sugars present in the grape juice. Carbon dioxide and alcohol are by-products of this process.
  • During the fermentation of red wines, the grape skins are forced to the top of the tank or container forming a cap. This cap must be punched down at regular intervals to ensure quality.


  • Following fermentation, the wines are poured into barrels for aging. Typically, the wine is aged in 60-gallon French or American oak barrels.
  • During the barrel aging, the wines are racked several times. This means the wine is pumped from one barrel to an empty barrel. Solids are removed from the bottom of the barrel and the barrel is used again.
  • After months of aging in the barrels the wine is moved into the bottle where it will stay at the winery and continue to age. When the wine is sufficiently aged in the bottle, the wine is ready to be shipped and consumed by the wine lover.
  • Here is some information on how much wine is made from a ton of grapes and how many wine bottles are in a barrel of wine.

Related information to how wine is made at a winery:

In October of 2013 we visited the Priorat region of Spain and posted this article and video on the “The Crush

Short video on making wine in the Napa Valley by Markham Vineyards