Wine fermentation is a critical step of winemaking. Unfavorable conditions can seriously affect the quality of the final product; however, it is difficult to anticipate these abnormal behaviors. In this study, the predictive power of stepwise linear discriminant analysis (SLDA) was evaluated to discriminate the behavior of wine fermentation. Information on different chemical concentrations from 18 industrial wine fermentations of Cabernet Sauvignon was used in this study. The statistical procedure consisted of curve fitting with exponential curve, and Stepwise LDA applied to the parameters of the curve. This methodology was applied to different times between the beginning and the end of fermentation (72, 95, 100, 150, 200 and 400 h). The results revealed that between seven and eight, of the 28 variables studied, minimized the Standard Error of Cross-Validation (SECV) for the different times. In almost all times studied, correlation coefficient of alcoholic degree, initial concentration of glucose, initial density and correlation coefficient of tartaric acid were the variables more discriminant, and they indicated some differences between a normal and an abnormal fermentation, which need to be corroborated with more information. In this work, before 95 h, it was not possible to minimize the prediction error and find the most discriminant variables. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.