Important Facts & Figures About Wine Manufacturing
South African wines are the toast of Africa, and we mean that literally. But even in South Africa, there is no better wine than Western Cape wines. This region is the home to South Africa’s wine manufacturing giants. Western Cape, which is where Western Cape wines come from, is a Geographical Unit within the Wine of Origin classification system of South African wine. Corresponding to the province of Western Cape it includes most of the vineyards in South Africa. The wines of the Western Cape range from sturdy Rhone-style red wines to aromatic Sauvignon blancs in vineyards cooled by breezes off the Atlantic.
The wine manufacturing process is a thoroughly fascinating one. The thousands and millions that tourists pay to go through wine routes both here in South Africa and in other wine manufacturing countries of the world is proof of this assertion. Typically, the type of grape that is used to make the wine gives the wine its name, such as Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel. However, some wines are blends of various types of wines, such as a Semillon Chardonnay. The blending of various wines to produce a given flavor is part of the art of the winemaking and wine manufacturing.
Growing grapes, a process known as viticulture, involves a complex interaction (terroir) between the following factors: soil, geology, chemicals, topography, climate as well as microclimate so anyone versed in wine manufacturing should also be versed in at least basic agriculture, chemistry and environmental science. The types of grapes that are planted and grown in any given area depend upon the terroir. In the Northern Hemisphere, grapes begin to bud in late March or early April. The grapes grow, bloom and develop fruit throughout the summer. The grower's goal is to keep the leaf growth small, which allows more sun in and keeps the grape clusters small yet numerous. The growers must also watch for signs of drought, disease and pests. In late September or early October, the grapes are ready to harvest. The actual times vary with the climate, latitude and judgment of individual growers.
In the fall, it is crush time. The grapes are harvested. Some vineyards use mechanical harvesting techniques, but most hire workers to pick the grapes by hand. The grapes are then brought to the winery. Many wineries are located on or near the vineyards. If the wineries are far away, the grapes are shipped in refrigerated trucks.
After the wine has aged sufficiently, as determined by the winemaker, it is time to bottle and package it for sale. The operator pumps the wine from the storage tank to the bottling machine. There, bottles are loaded by hand and a pre-measured amount of wine flows into each bottle. After each bottle is filled, the operator removes it and places it in the corking machine. The machine draws a vacuum inside the bottle that sucks the pre-loaded cork into the neck of the bottle. So the next time you’re savoring a bottle of your favorite Western Cape wine, take some minutes to appreciate what process it goes through.