White wines can be made from grapes that are either white or red in color. This is because the color of the wine comes from the pigment in the skin and the winemaker removes the skin before the wine is made.
After the grapes are picked they are crushed and de-stemmed in a large machine. Then the juice, which at this point is called free-run juice, is drained off and collected. The stems and skins are pressed, so that additional juices can be drained off. Both the stems and skins are left behind.
Next, the juice along with some yeast goes into either a stainless steel vat or a small oak barrel to be fermented. Fermentation simply means that the yeast absorbs the sugar producing alcohol and carbon dioxide as by products. The carbon dioxide bubbles up and disappears, while the alcohol stays.
The juice, which is now termed "must", continues to ferment. This process takes anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks, until all the sugar has fermented into alcohol.
The yeast cells die, and are known as lees. This means that the winemakers left the dead yeast cells in the wine as it aged, instead of letting them settle to the bottom of the vat or barrel, draining off some of the clear juice, which is called racking. Sometimes they will stir up the lees to increase the content of the wine.
Either way the wine has to age. Most white wines are aged in stainless steel vats as apposed to barrels. This is because vats seem to let out their full flavor. The Chardonnay grape is sometimes aged in Oak.
After the aging process, the wine is racked and stabilized, then fined. This is a process in which a substance is added to attack any particles that are floating around. Next, the wine is drained off of the residue, and filtered to make it clear and bottled. The wine is either released into the market place or held at the winery to age longer.
Winemakers go through the same basic process to make red, but with some minor differences. The wine maker objective is to get a lot of color into the wine. That means when the grapes are crushed, the stems are removed but the skins are left. The skins contain most of the color pigments and tannins.
Unlike white wines, red wine is fermented before the skins are removed so the skins can stay in contact with the juice longer. In the production of simple and inexpensive wine, the skins may be discarded after fermentation. But in the case of fine wines, the winemaker will want to keep them in there longer. This is called maceration. The skins will have to be punched down into the wine, or the wine pumped up over the skin, to encourage this process.
Then the wine is racked and the juice is put into either oak barrels or stainless steel vats for aging. When the aging process is complete, the wine is fined, filtered, stabilized, and bottled.