Everybody loves a nice class of wine. Do you know how wine is made? It takes a lot of work and a lot of science to produce a high-quality, classy wine.
Did you know that many people make a living making wine?
See the wine jobs section of JobMonkey if you don’t believe it.
Winemakers, or vinters, grow grapes and create wine. Winemaking is composed of two areas of horticulture – viticulture and oenology. Viticulture is the science and production of growing grapes. Oenology includes everything else involved in winemaking. When a winery has a winemaking team that is expert at both, the result is an amazing, elegant, delicious wine.
Grapes are a vine fruit that can be grown in temperate latitudes. Usually they are grown near mountains and large bodies of water where overall temperatures are between 50 and 68 degrees F. Next time you buy a bottle of wine, you’ll notice on the stylish labels that wines come from places that fit these criteria like Australia, France, Chile, California, and British Columbia. Most wine is made from grapes, but it can also be made with other fruits or honey.
Viticulture focuses on the grape growing process and harvest. Viticulturists concentrate on the grapes on the grapevine. They monitor and control pests, fertilize the soil, irrigate the vines, manage canopies, and monitor the grapes. It is their job to read the weather and ensure wineries grow grapes in the right locations. Grapes need about 1500 hours of sunlight during the growing season and about 27 inches of rain. They need to be grown on hillsides with good drainage. Proper drip irrigation techniques are essential. The geography influences the grapes characteristics.
The viticulturist decides when to harvest the grapes. Picking the peak harvest time determines the overall taste of the grape and ultimately the flavor of the wine. Harvest is usually September to November in the Northern Hemisphere and February to March in the Southern Hemisphere. Harvest is determined by the amount of sugar, acid, and pH of the grapes. Flavor, seed color, and taste also come into play. After fruit pickers or machines pluck the grapes, the viticulturist’s job is over.
Once the grapes are picked, the winemaking process becomes known as oenology. The process of winemaking is different for white wines and red wines. Usually the first step of oenology is to destem the grapes. Next the grapes get crushed and pressed. Sometimes people literally stomp on the grapes in a process called pigeage. Depending on the type of wine, the idea is to let the juice settle and then remove the skins or pulp. Then it’s time for fermentation.
Fermentation uses fungi called yeast to convert the sugars in the grapes into alcohol. This process is done twice. During the entire process it is important to monitor temperatures to ensure the desired taste. After the fermentation, the wine is put in oak barrels or large tanks for storage. It is tested for taste and quality assurance. Sometimes preservatives are added. Finally it is stored and bottled.
This bottled wine is ultimately delivered to stores so people can enjoy the hard work of the winemaker. Winemakers spend a lifetime perfecting this science and art. Many obtain a degree in winemaking, botany, viticulture, or oenology. Most become sommeliers, who work for wineries and wine companies.
A true winemaker has a highly developed sense of taste. From a grape ready to harvest to an aged bottle of the winery’s finest, a winemaker bases his career on the taste of the grapes and wine. Tastes make reputations and reputations make money. Winemakers can plan to make $38,000 to $77,000 per year. The best of the best can make much more.
Developing quality wine takes a passion for the process. It’s a hands-on task that starts with testing the soils near the grapevine and finishes with an award-winning bottle of wine. A professional winemaker understands that the grapes are the key to success in this career.
Quick Facts About Winemaking Careers
Job Title: Winemaker, Vinter, Oenologist, Viticulturist
Description: Art of winemaking from growing grapes to bottling
Pay: $38,000 to $77,000 per year