ISO Wine Making Standards

Pouring some good red wine, which has been made to ISO wine making standards.

Winemaking is a time- and labor-consuming process that requires a level of quality throughout to ensure that its end product will be enjoyable. ISO has published several standards relating to wine production that address guidelines overseeing the proper steps spanning the process.

The creation of wine begins with the cultivation and harvesting of the grapes that will eventually become the beverage. The key concerns related to harvesting grapes are the efficiency of the procedure and keeping them intact throughout it. To collect a large amount of grapes at once, vineyards tend to utilize a grape harvester, a tall machine that straddles the trellis holding the grape vines, which it shakes with rods to remove grapes from the vines. A tray in the machine catches the falling grapes, which are then driven through a conveyor belt and several fans to brush aside any leaves or debris that have also been caught by the tray.

An ISO 5704 grape harvester in action, cutting down grape plants in vineyard.

The next step of the process is extracting the juices through grape pressing. ISO 5703:1979 – Equipment for vine cultivation and wine making – Grape presses – Methods of test provides testing procedures for the operations of grape press machines. This is written so that it can apply to both continuous and discontinuous presses for grapes of varying sizes and qualities, in the attempt to attain a higher net output of juice. ISO 5704:1980 – Equipment for vine cultivation and wine making – Grape-harvesting machinery – Test methods addresses testing methods for grape harvesting machines. The tests laid out for grape harvesting machines are designed with a view to assess their performance in reference to the losses of the grapes and the damage to the vines, to record their performance, to understand their overall operating time, and to observe their mechanical operation and reliability.

Something important to consider with these initial steps is that they do not necessarily require the use of machinery. For thousands of years, these tasks were performed through physical labor, using methods that date back to the times of the Ancient Greeks and Romans. Even today, vineyards and wine producers will occasionally choose the use of more workers over machines. While it is not very common for large vineyards to press their wine by having people step on grapes, some do use workers to handpick the fruit off vines. This is ideal for places that want gentle treatment of the grapes and workers to assess which ones are not desirable for fermentation. However, despite these advantages, grape harvesting machines can actually lead to a 60-70 percent savings, so they are used much more than handpicking.

Wine press in a classical Georgian wine cellar, deep in a basement in Kakheti.

Fermentation is followed by clarification, the process in which all unwanted particles, such as dead yeast cells, tannins, and proteins, are removed from the wine through fining or filtration. After this, the aging process begins, which can be done in stainless steel tanks, oak barrels, or in the bottles themselves. After pressing comes fermentation. Some winemakers let this occur from the wild yeast that is in the air, while others speed the process by adding cultured yeast to the juice. This goes on until all of the sugar in the liquid is converted into alcohol, and it can take anywhere from 10 days to one month or more.

Movement of the wine is performed through mash pumps, the same channels that are also used to move ingredients during the brewing of beer and the fermentation of spirits. For wine, they move grapes and grape matter throughout almost all stages of the process, whether they are complete, crushed, or already fermented. ISO 7224:1983 Equipment for vine cultivation and wine making – Mash pumps – Methods of test includes methods for winemakers to test the quality and performance of these mash pumps so that they are efficient and do not compromise the overall quality of the wine.

The different types of equipment that are used throughout these steps are covered by ISO 3835, which defines the vocabulary for the process and includes diagrams and drawings of the materials. This is comprised by several parts, which include:

ISO 3835-1:1976 – Equipment for vine cultivation and wine making – Vocabulary – Part 1
ISO 3835-3:1980 – Equipment for vine cultivation and wine making – Vocabulary – Part 3
ISO 3835-4:1981 – Equipment for vine cultivation and wine making – Vocabulary – Part 4

After the wine has been appropriately aged, it is bottled. It is essential that the wine be properly sealed in bottles, so it is not exposed to any chemicals in the air and can continue to age before it is opened to drink. For this, vintners use cork, since the qualities of bark from a cork oak tree let it remain resilient after immense pressurization. Specifications for the dimensions and structure of corks for still wine are covered by ISO 16420:2013 – Cork – Cork stoppers for still wines – Mechanical and physical specifications and those for sparkling wines, such as champagne, are covered by ISO 4710:2000 – Cork – Cylindrical stoppers for sparkling wines and gasified wines – Characteristics.

A cork tree that has been harvested through ISO wine making standards.

Once the wine has been completed and is secured with an appropriate stopper, winemakers will taste it. ISO 3591:1977 – Sensory analysis — Apparatus — Wine-tasting glass gives the exact dimensions and specifications of a wine glass that is used to taste-test wine in a way that releases all of its flavors and aromas. In addition, ISO 16419:2013 – Cork – Visual anomalies of cork stoppers for still wines addresses any of the damages or problems with completed corks that could cause the wine to spoil.

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