Wine Making. Science or Art?

Topics: Wine, Winemaking, Fermentation Pages: 5 (1704 words) Published: March 24, 2014

Wine Making
Science or Art?

Dan Simonic

Wine. Science or Art? Wine is an art form perfected and refined by the utilisation of scientific methods and concepts. This concept of science refining the artistic merit of wine can be displayed in many areas of wine making however the points in particular interest are, the picking of the grapes which is considered to be the pinnacle fine wine, the chemical and yeast content added whilst the wine is being created and, most importantly the taste and how it can be altered. According to Foulkes, Christopher (2001). (Larousse Encyclopedia of Wine), “wine is an alcoholic beverage made from fermented grapes or other fruits. The natural chemical balance of grapes allows them to ferment without the addition of acids, sugars, enzymes, water or other nutrients.” Wine is generally made from a variety of different styled grapes such as Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot, all of which have a different effect to the taste of the product. Figure 1.

Making a fine wine all starts with the harvesting of the grapes. The grapes have to be exactly right in order for the quality of the fruit to be transferred into the final product. The process of “picking the grapes” is debatable on whether being a science or art form. According to Eric Glomski, Arizona winemaker and documenter in his article of “The Art and Science of Picking Grapes” (, Glomski believes that the picking of the grape is based upon the artistic side of knowing to pick once or multiple times in a harvest. He explains it’s a “feeling if to pick once or multiple times” making the decision an art form. He also states that the science involved is to ensure maximum taste when picking chardonnay grapes in California. Figure 2 “I hung out with some scientists who conducted interesting studies on the chemical composition of Chardonnay Grapes at different Brix (% sugar) levels. They picked at 21, 23, 24, 25 and 27 Brix (from less ripe to very ripe) and then conducted sophisticated analyses that allowed them to identify and qualify the chemical flavour and aromatic compounds present at each Brix level. At low and high extremes, the compounds present were less diverse than the middle range. So if you were to only pick once, the middle pick seemed to make sense, but who said you were to only pick once?” Here in scientific studies, Glomski explained that if multiple picks were used based on feeling, which is considered to be an art form, and then he would select a range of Brix levels in grapes as he is refining his artistic process with scientific methods. ”After pondering this information, I started picking Chardonnay in a Brix bell curve. I would pick 20% of the crop less ripe, 60% in the middle and 20% much riper. This gave me much more flavour diversity to work with in my blending and taught me a lot about these grapes and their personalities.”

Fermentation is the next major step in wine making. According to by Anne Marie Helmenstine Ph.D., “Fermentation is a metabolic process in which an organism converts a carbohydrate, such as starch or sugar, into an alcohol or acid.”

Figure 3 – the fermentation process shown graphically
For example, yeast use the fermentation process to obtain energy by converting sugar to alcohol. This is the process in wine and can be shown below in figure 3.

Figure 4- fermentation chemical equation
This explains that 1 mol of glucose when mixed with the right ratio of yeast, according to that is 1 gallon of wine has around 2lb sugar and 250mg of yeast, it metabolizes forming an alcohol and Carbon dioxide. This stage is aided by the presence of bacteria in anaerobic conditions, and the fermentation process is said to be officially initiated when the yeast is added to the must. The...

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