Winemaking at Lakeridge Winery Clermont, Fla. (Lakeridge, 2004)

Harvesting

A delicate balance among a grape’s weight and its sugar, acid and pH levels determines when it is ready to be harvested. Lakeridge Winery has two harvest periods: one in late-June when the Florida hybrids ripen and one in mid-August when the muscadines ripen. Each harvest period may last from one to three weeks.

It takes three people to operate the harvester, which runs along each row of grapes shaking them from their vines. Photo/Patricia Casey

To harvest the grapes, workers drive a harvesting machine over each row of grapes gently shaking the grapes off their vines.

Crushing and Pressing

The grapes are then emptied into the hopper of the crusher-stemmer machine. A set of paddles separates the stems from the grapes and serrated rollers break the skin so juice can flow. Up to this point, red and white grapes are handled alike.

Two presses are located outside the fermentation storage area. Photo/Patricia Casey

The crushed grapes are called "must," and white grape must is pumped directly from the crusher to the press. The press squeezes the grapes to remove as much juice as possible but not so hard as to break grape seeds, which can add bitterness to the wine. After red grapes are crushed, they are pumped together with their skins and seeds directly to a fermenting tank.

Fermentation and Yeasts

Yeast feeds off fruit sugars converting sugar into energy for growth and reproduction while giving off alcohol and CO2. This fermentation process breaks down the sugar into equal parts of alcohol and carbon dioxide. The winemaker inoculates the juice with yeast and adds sugar and the fermentation takes place at a controlled temperature of 55 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. This requires two to eight weeks.

White wine fermentation tanks. Photo/Patricia Casey
The relatively low temperature and slow fermentation helps preserve the fruity flavor and delicate aromas of the white grapes.

For red wine, when the desired color and flavor is achieved (usually 48 hours), the fermenting wine is drawn off, the "cap" is pressed and both are combined in a fermenter to finish their fermentation.

The tall tanks with the cooling jackets are especially designed for working with red grapes. They are mounted on "stilts" so that the press can be placed underneath them. The other large tanks in the fermentation cellar are 5,000 gallons each, and can be used for storage or white wine fermentation.

Cooling jackets surround the red wine fermentation tanks. Photo/Patricia Casey

Fermentation creates heat naturally, and this temperature is controlled by water which is circulated through coils around the storage tanks. Stainless steel storage tanks are used instead of wooden barrels.

Bottling

Both white and red wines are bottled within six to 12 months of harvest to retain all their grape character, freshness and crispness.

One of the most important bottling processes is sealing the bottle. Natural cork made from the bark of a tree, which grows in the western Mediterranean, is used to seal the bottles. Each bottle receives a final inspection and is then cased to rest for at least one month prior to release.

Aging

Cases of wine wait in storage at least one month prior to release. Photo/Patricia Casey
In general, 75 percent of the wine produced in the world is as good after one year as it will ever be and will only deteriorate, not improve, after its third birthday. Lakeridge Winery recommends that its wines be consumed within three years.





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