When I took over at Wines Unlimited in October 2012, the steepest learning curve I had was in relation to making wines. I knew plenty about wine, the varieties, how they should taste etc. but I had no experience at all about making wines! Fortunately I was very lucky to have a fantastic teacher over those first few months – Pat Bertand has been with Wines Unlimited for over 10 years and has helped clients make thousands of batches of wine in that period. And so he set about teaching me the art of craft wine-making!
The first step in the process is the part that involves you – the client. Once you have selected your wine, we will prepare the grape juice and any oak or other ingredients that might be needed. And then all you have to do is shake a tiny packet of yeast over the juice and this kicks off the fermentation process. It’s a process that takes only a few minutes and no appointment is necessary!
The fermentation process takes approximately two weeks. During that time your wine will be bubbling away in its very own glass carboy and slowly turning from grape juice into wine! Every part of the winemaking process is carried out in store so you can pop in at any time to visit your wine and see how it is progressing.
At some stage during those first couple of weeks we may “rack” your wine – “racking” is a process by which we take your fermenting wine and siphon it from one carboy to another – leaving behind the oak or any other ingredients we may have added to the grape juice before fermentation.
Once your wine has stopped fermenting it will move on to the next stage in the winemaking process which is called stabilizing and degassing. These processes take a few days and at the end we add a clarifying agent to your wine which will pull any sediment in your wine to the bottom of the carboy. This clarifying process takes a week to four weeks – our higher quality wines take longer to clarify due to the wines being more full-bodied.
Finally once your wine is looking “clear”, ie all of the sediment has fallen and gathered at the base of the carboy, we will proceed to the final stage in the winemaking process – filtering. Your wine is passed through a commercial filtering machine which extracts any residual sediment leaving behind a clean & clear wine. Filtering is a noisy and time consuming part of the winemaking process and so (like most winemakers) we only filter wine once a week on a Monday (hence why we are closed to the public on Mondays).
Once your wine has been filtered we will let you know that your wine is ready to bottle. Bottling is the fun part of the winemaking experience! It only takes 30 minutes to bottle a batch of wine – once your bottles are washed and rinsed, our automatic bottle filling machine will quickly transfer your wine from its glass carboy into your bottles. All that is left to do is to put a cork in your bottle and add a label and shrink if you desire.
And then the very very best part about the winemaking process – you get to leave Wines Unlimited with 30 bottles of your very own wine!!