Mac and Cheese? Nahhhh… Wine and Cheese

As you grow older, a lot of your favourites are replaced – with no apologies! So are mine. While we are highly influenced by the western culture, little do we know the whys and the hows of the culture we religiously inherit. One such trait that we have adopted, yet know almost nothing about, is drinking wine. I’ve often noted my fellow countrymen, and women, drinking gallons and gallons of wine every year, not knowing that winemaking is an art and requires a lot of hard work and perseverance. And being born under the sign of scales, I love art and all things beautiful! I’ve been planning this whole thing since two years, but somehow something of greater significance always came up, which led me to push aside the plan. This time, however, when the very same urge resurfaced, I couldn’t shrug off it any further. So without giving it much thought, I called upon a few friends, who could get along on a short notice, and drove off to this widespread winery off the road in Yelahanka Hobli, KA. Although it’s not quite possible to seep in the entire process in one session, I took note of a few tiny details, which may help you while ordering your choice of companion.
To begin with, the grape with which wine is prepared is unlike the grape that we eat as a fruit — the former containing more seeds and being less pulpy comparatively. Another important factor that highly marks how much a bottle will cost you is the soil in which the grapes are cultivated. More often than not, soil plays a vital role in shaping the wine to what it is. While various vineyards around the globe have their own peculiar soil in which the wine grapes are cultivated, and hence the flavor and the price, the vineyards in the southern part of India – to which I visited – mostly use red gravel soil. Said that, we cannot omit yet another factor that miraculously adds up to the taste and estimate of a fine bottle of wine – the climate! Warmer days and cooler nights with limited rainfall is the ideal climate here. Wine grapes are usually harvested twice a year – once in April (for grape batch Feb-March) and the second lot in November (for grape batch Aug-Sept). In India, however, it is harvested mostly in Feb-March as with the onset of monsoon, the soil tends to be moister than what is required – remember, perfection is the key here! Everything, from the soil to the fruit and the picking, has to be perfect, which explains why wine grapes are harvested by women alone (the fact that women are more hardworking and patient). The stem of the plant is such that it tapers towards the soil. Direct sunlight is equally essential, which gives the beverage its aroma and the sugar content – the more the sunlight, the sweeter the fruit, and more the alcohol content.
grape stomping
Every time a sufficient amount of grapes is picked, it goes into the production house where the amount is segregated and only the very best fruit goes into the de-stemmer (grapes were stomped manually with feet in olden days) where the fruit is crushed. Here’s when the process for red, white, and rosé wine differ slightly. While the entire fruit, along with the pulp and the skin, is mashed for red wine thus giving it the desired hue, the white wine takes only the thin juice of the fruit. Rosé (pinkish in colour), on the other hand, incorporates some of the colour of the grape skin but not enough to give it that particular redness of the red wine. So next time when your doctor makes mention of a glass of wine to keep your heart healthy, note that he is directing to red wine and not white. The crushed grapes then go into gigantic steel tanks for fermentation. During fermentation, while red wine is enclosed in 20 – 30 degree Celsius, white wine undergoes a similar process at 7 – 13 degree Celsius. As the grapes are crushed, the yeast consumes the sugar from the exposed juice, releasing ethanol and carbon dioxide. The process may last from 10 – 21 days or more, depending on the temperature, speed, and type of wine being prepared. (A special mention of the fourth category, the sparkling wine, is required here as it, unlike the others, undergo two fermentation processes, one for the wine and the other for the bubbles.)
The fermented juice is then clarified where dead yeast cells, tannins, and protein are removed; wine is then transferred to oak barrels for filtration. You may wonder why oak and not just any other barrel! Well, oak has the property of absorbing flavors from the surroundings, thus smoothening the liquid. Fine settlements at the bottom of the barrels are removed, and the clear liquid is poured into another oak barrel for future aging. Further aging, which is the final stage of winemaking, will again add up to the smoothness and flavor of the wine. The wine is then poured into bottles and sealed with corks or screw caps, depending on whether it goes out for immediate consumption or stays in the house for some more time. The wine, unlike other beverages, does not directly go out in the market for sale. It has to be sold to the Government, who then levies excise duty on the product and sells the same to the producer at MRP. The producer then supplies the same to the distributors. This is also the reason why wine is free of GST. I wasn’t aware until now that winemaking is such a tedious, yet interesting, process. So the next time you take a sip, recall all the hard work and the time that have been put into creating that sip you just took!

[PS: An open bottle of wine is for immediate consumption; the maximum that the flavor and aroma of an unsealed wine bottle last is two days.] Happy wine sipping! 🙂



All photographs © Fiddlef00t






















Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s