Winemaking at Chicago Winery
Easily the most exciting, and busiest, time of the year for wine production is harvest season. Once the fruit arrives at the winery, it is all systems go! Harvest season starts in mid-August and lasts through late November. During this time, our team begins the winemaking process, turning grapes into wine. It is a combination of nerves and optimism for what the vintage promises that drives the energy in the cellar for weeks of long days and nights. Long hours prove necessary as the separate lots of fruit work their way through fermentation, requiring constant monitoring but minimal intervention.
Fermentation is the process in which the natural sugar that has developed in the grapes while ripening on the vine gets converted into alcohol by yeast. There is a myriad of variables that determine how the wine will taste at the end, but at this stage, we are most concerned with a handful of parameters: fermentation with skins or without, whole berry versus crushed skins, temperatures of fermenting juice—both low and high, fermentation vessel, style of cap management and oxygen inclusion, rate of fermentation, and level of dryness.
Once fermentation renders the wine dry (the term “dry” refers to the sugar in the grapes being fully converted into alcohol), the winemaking team can relax a bit as the wines move from the delicate stage of active ferment to a more stable one indicated by the completion of fermentation.