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How Wine Is Made: from Harvest to Bottling

The wine-making process, also known as vinification, turns grape must into wine in various stages from the grape harvest up until bottling and subsequent ageing. Come along with us in this article to discover how wine is made step by step and how we do it at El Coto de Rioja!

Although historical evidence shows that wine has existed since the Neolithic period, but the information we have on wine-making process only dates back to the 8th century BC. At this point, people were already talking about how to care for the grape wines and harvesting and crushing grapes. Over time, the wine-making process became increasingly complex and sophisticated and, even though the process follows some essential steps, each winery has its own personal flair that gives their wines different characteristics.

Tipos de vendimia

The harvest

In Spain, the grape harvest usually takes place between September and October, but it takes place increasingly earlier in the year now due to climate change and drought. We start harvesting our white grapes at the end of August and then start with the red varieties in the first week of September.

Preparation for the grape harvest starts with sampling, in other words, the oenologists take some of the grapes to see if they are ripe enough, and if they have enough sugar and flavour to be harvested. They also check that the pips are well toasted and that the colour of the grape must is right. For harvesting, the grapes need to be dry. It’s also best not to harvest during the hottest hours of the day so that they don’t ferment.

Once the grape harvest starts, the teams of pickers manually cut the bunches of the vines with special scissors. Then, they fill up their baskets and tip them into a tractor to transport the harvest to the winery. The grapes must get to where they will be processed shortly after harvest, otherwise they will ferment and rot.

Here at El Coto de Rioja, the harvest can take a few weeks because we own over 800 hectares of vineyards. If you want to know more about how the vine is prepared throughout the year, we have a series on YouTube where we discuss it in detail.

Uvas de viñedos ecológicos


When the grapes reach the winery, the first step in the wine-making process is destemming, which involves removing the leftover leaves and stems from the grapes. By doing this, we get rid of the acidity and grassy notes from the stem. Then, we move on to the crushing to the grape pulp out. The extraction is done by a machine in a way that doesn’t damage the skins or pips.

Afterwards, the grape must with the skins and pips are pressed to get the remaining juice out and get the yeast that will cause the alcoholic fermentation during the next stage.

Alcoholic fermentation takes place when the sugar in the grape must is turned into alcohol. For this to happen, the grape must is put into stainless steel tanks and the liquid is left to rest for three weeks at a controlled temperature. Depending on the type of wine we're making, this process may differ slightly. For example, in white wines, the fermentation takes places after extracting the skins and pips, while with red wines they are left in to give them their characteristic colour.

vinos crianza en barrica de El Coto de Rioja

Barrel ageing

Fermentation allows us to turn grape must into wine. But the process doesn't end there! Now, the wines that will be Crianza, Reserva or Gran reserva wines start their barrel-ageing stage. Each of them needs to be aged for different amounts of time. For example, young wines do not need to be barrel aged, Crianza wines need a maximum of three years, Reserva wines between twenty-four and thirty-six months, and Gran reserva wines need over forty-eight months. During barrel ageing, the wine takes on new aromas and flavours.

Lastly, the best wines are finished off by ageing them in the bottle. During the months they spend on the bottle rack with controlled temperatures and light levels, all of the flavours and aromas of the wood are mingled and rounded off, making the wine harmonic and easy on the palate.

blog de vinos

El Coto de Rioja wines

Here at El Coto de Rioja, we always strive for excellence at every step in the wine-making process. To do this, we have become the winery that owns the most vineyards (all of them in the sub-regions of the Rioja Qualified Designation of Origin). Not only that, but we are also committed to innovation and cutting-edge technology. This way, we can ensure that we get an exceptional product every year,

What’s more, we don't just have one winery, we have twelve, each of which specialises in one part of the process. Do you want to find out more about our spaces? You can see them here.

Did you know that El Coto de Rioja was a trailblazer in planting new white grape varieties approved by the Regulatory Board in 2006 (Verdejo, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc)? You might be more familiar with our red wines, but we also have the widest range of white wines in Spain.

Discover all of our white wines!