All. About. Wine.

Wine Styles

How It’s Made

In our What is Wine section we discussed the basics of the winemaking process. But, how do you make the different styles of wine?

Below, we give a quick look at some of the basic styles and discuss the differences in how they’re made.

The Lighter side

White Wine

White wine is a wine that is made and fermented without skin contact. This means that after the grapes are crushed, they are immediately pressed. This creates a clear juice (with slight yellow, gold or greenish tones).

White wine is mostly made from the fermentation of the juice from green grapes, but can also be made from grapes with red skin (as long as the skin doesn’t taint the color of the juice). A good example of this is Pinot Noir, which is often used to produce Champagne.

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The Dark Side

Red Wine

Red Wine is a wine that is made and fermented on the grape skins.
After the grapes are crushed, the are pumped into a fermenter (this can often look like a large tub). At this stage, a combination of juice, skins, pulp and seeds are all mixed together in the fermenter. This combination is known as grape must.

The must is then introduced to yeast in order to begin fermentation. The big difference between red and white wines is that red wine is fermented on the grape skins. The skin is where the wine gets its red color*. Once fermentation is finished, then the red wine is pressed off all of its solids and is then set to age.
*Some grapes do have red flesh as well as red skin. These are known as teinturier grapes.

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Breaking all the Rules

Rosé

rosé is a wine that incorporates a small amount of color from the grape skins, but not nearly as much as a red wine. There are two major ways to produce rosé; the skin contact method or saignée.
The skin contact method is the same as we saw for making red wine. The major difference is time. While red wine may sit on the skin for many weeks to several months, rosé wine will only sit on the skins for a hours to a few days. Another major difference is that rosé is fermented after it is removed from the skins.

Saignée is when a winemaker bleeds a small portion of juice off a red wine after it goes into the fermenter, but before it begins fermentation. This helps to darken the color of the wine (and make the tannins stronger), while the light pink juice that was bled off can be fermented into a rosé.
*White and red wines can be blended together to make a rosé, but this is generally frowned upon in the wine community-and is illegal in France.

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It’s not what you think

Orange Wine

An orange wine is a white wine that is made in the same method as red wine- meaning a skin-contact white wine. Oftentimes, this gives the wine an orange hue, which is where we get the name. However, like any style of wine, there is a wide range of colors.

Orange wine has been gaining popularity in recent years, especially with respect to the biodynamic and natural wine movements. Recently, we have seen popularity grow for orange wine aged in amphora (clay vessels). These wines have the capability to be infinitely more complex than a standard white wine, and not for the faint of heart.

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Tiny Bubbles

Sparkling Wine

Ah, bubbles. These delightful additions to a still wine are generally created when a wine undergoes a fermentation under pressure. The CO2 released during fermentation is trapped in the liquid, thus creating a bubbly (sparkling) wine!
However there are several methods used to create a sparkler. Some of the most popular are the Traditional Method, Charmat Method, Ancestral Method and Carbonation.

Traditional Method

The Traditional Method (also known as The Champagne Method) invovles taking a finished wine and creating a secondary fermentation inside of the bottle. Once the finished wine is in the bottle, a tirage (a mixture of yeast, sugar and sometimes yeast nutrients) is added. The tirage causes a secondary fermentation inside of the bottle. Since the CO2 from the fermentation has nowhere to go, it is absorbed by the wine, creating bubbles.

Before corking the finished wine, the winemaker must remove the dead yeast cells (also known as lees) from the wine. This is a process called disgorging. It involves freezing the neck of the bottle (where the dead yeast cells have collected), opening the bottle and allowing the frozen lees to shoot out. The winemaker is left with the clear, sparkling wine, which is then capped off with a traditional cork and cage.

This process is time consuming, costly and risky- but it makes for some truly fabulous and one-of-a-kind wines- which is why sparkling wines made in this manner tend to be very expensive. Some of the wines made in this style are Champagne, Cava and Cremant.

Charmat Method

Also known as the Tank Method, The Charmat Method tends to be an easier and less-expensive way to produce sparkling wine. Instead of adding the tirage to a bottle, it is added to a pressurized tank (without the pressure, the CO2 would blow-off into the air) of finished wine. The wine goes through its secondary fermentation in bulk. It is then filtered, to remove the lees, and bottled under pressure to retain the bubbles. One of the most famous wines made in this method is Prosecco.

Ancestral Method

This is the oldest method of making sparkling wine. It is also the method used to create pétillant-naturel (more commonly known as pet-nat).

These wines are not created using a secondary fermentation. Instead, the winemaker bottles the wine before it has completely finished its primary fermentation. The bottle is sealed with a crown cap (just like a bottle of beer) and is allowed to finish fermenting under pressure- thus creating the bubbles. Rarely, the winemaker will disgorge and rebottle. However, it has become increasingly popular to allow the lees the remain in bottle and the resulting wine to remain a bit cloudy. This style has recently become very popular with natural wine fans.

Carbonation

This method does tend to be frowned upon by most winemakers. It simply involves injecting CO2, under pressure, into a finished still wine until the wine has become sparkling (similar to soda).

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