Enology is the science of wines and winemaking. Viticulture is the cultivation
of grapes, especially for winemaking. Winemakers have to have a nose for both.
"Winemakers are entirely responsible for taking the grapes, crushing them,
pressing them, fermenting them, turning the juice into wine and making sure
the wine stays stable by performing certain stability tests. Then they're
responsible for bottling the wine. A winemaker takes it all the way from the
grape to the bottle," explains winemaker Tim Peters.
Winemakers may perform the following tasks:
- Working closely with the growers
- Conducting laboratory tests to monitor the progress of grapes
- Determining the correct time for harvesting
- Organizing the crushing, pressing and settling of juice
- Supervising the fermentation of grape material and the filtering of wine
- Placing wine in tanks for maturation
- Preparing plans for bottling wine and ensuring that quality is maintained
"Winemakers are very highly regarded and border on celebrity status. The
reality is that winemakers are more like chemists practicing an inexact science
requiring a lot of practical experience," says winemaker Earl Ault.
"Being basically an agricultural product, a lot of winemaking takes place
in the vineyard."
A great deal of chemical analysis goes on in winemaking. Grapes are tested
from the minute they enter the winery until the wine is bottled.
"We measure acid; sulfur dioxide and sulfite levels; free and total sulfur;
sugar levels; and whether or not there's bacteria present," says winemaker
Bill Crawford. "If you're real good in general chemistry in high school, you'll
have a pretty good handle on most of it."
What makes juice turn into wine? Deprived of oxygen, yeast converts sugar
and water to alcohol and carbon dioxide. This reaction, the way in which yeast
obtains energy for growth and reproduction, is the basis of all winemaking.
Winemakers who work in large wineries may be in charge of just the technical
side of the business. Those in small wineries may be responsible for the entire
Winemaking is seasonal, with the spring and fall being extremely busy.
In the spring, wines are bottled and extra care has to be taken due to frosts.
In the fall, grapes are harvested.
"Once harvest starts, we work 16 to 18 hours a day, seven days a week for
12 weeks. It depends on your level of responsibility. Those who are responsible
for the product all the way through tend to work the most," says Crawford.