After fall harvest, California’s wine-grape growers hand over the reins to the state’s world-class vintners. Red, white, sparkling and dessert wines are made using different techniques that vary on fermentation time, aging length, aging vessels (oak barrels or stainless steel tanks), temperature and more. Each decision the vintner makes influences the character and flavor of the resulting wine.
A benevolent form of a grey fungus, botrytis cinerea, which thrives in moist environments.
Wine-grape growers also play a major part in the making of dessert wines. Many times, the grapes used for these wines are allowed to sit on the vine considerably longer than other grapes, which allows them to develop very high levels of sugar. Sometime a grey fungus known as “noble rot” or “botrytis” is allowed to form on the grapes, which shrivels the grape and concentrates the natural sugars.
Similar to making red or white wine, the grapes are destemmed and crushed, and fermentation is started with the addition of yeast. However, with dessert wines the fermentation process is halted before all the sugars have been converted to alcohol – this is typically done by chilling or filtering the wine, but can also be achieved by adding brandy (these are called fortified wines). The leftover sugar gives dessert wines their signature sweet taste.