Making Wine, or Winemaking, or vinification, is the production of wine, starting with selection of the grapes or other produce and ending with bottling the finished wine. Although most wine is made from grapes, it may also be made from other fruit or non-toxic plant material. Mead is a wine that is made with honey being the primary ingredient after water.
Winemaking can be divided into two general categories: still wine production (without carbonation) and sparkling wine production (with carbonation).
The science of wine and winemaking is known as oenology (in American English, enology).
Image: © 2002, Cody Shive
The quality of the grapes determines the quality of the wine more than any other factor. Grape quality is affected by variety as well as weather during the growing season, soil minerals and acidity, time of harvest, and pruning method. The combination of these effects is often referred to as the grape's terroir.
Grapes are usually harvested from the vineyard from early September until the beginning of November in the northern hemisphere, or the middle of February until the beginning of March in the southern hemisphere. In some cool areas in the southern hemisphere, for example Tasmania, Australia, harvest extends into the month of May.
The most common species of wine grape is Vitis vinifera, which includes nearly all varieties of European origin.
"Varietal" describes wines made primarily from a single named grape variety, and which typically displays the name of that variety on the wine label. Examples of grape varieties commonly used in varietal wines are Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Merlot. Wines that display the name of two or more varieties on their label, such as a Chardonnay-Viognier, are blends and not varietal wines. The term is frequently misused in place of vine variety; the term variety refers to the vine or grape while varietal refers to the wine produced by a variety.
Similarly, the term varietal can be used to describe cider made from a single variety of apple, tea made from a single variety and preparation, or to describe particular subspecies of coffee.
As vintners and consumers have become aware of the characteristics of individual varieties of wine grapes, wines have also come to be identified by varietal names.
The term's concept was developed by Maynard Amerine at UC Davis after the Prohibition seeking to encourage growers to choose optimal vine varieties, and later promoted by Frank Schoonmaker in the 1950s and 1960s, ultimately becoming widespread during the California wine boom of the 1970s. Varietal wines are commonly associated with New World wines in general, but there is also a long-standing tradition of varietal labelling in Germany and other German-speaking wine regions including Austria and Alsace.