A Quick Glimpse InTo The World Of Oenology

natural wines Oenology

The study of wine… one of the finest pursuits known to man! We should all be so lucky to dedicate our lives to understanding the science behind what goes into winemaking but, thankfully, there are people out there who have done the hard work for us, so all we have to do is sit back, relax and enjoy the veritable fruits of their labour, wine glass in hand.

Distinct from viticulture (which covers the growing, cultivation and harvesting of the grapes themselves), oenology involves gaining a deeper understanding of the various characteristics of the fruit and the overall wine production process to help them make choices throughout that will improve the quality of their output.

Wine production is essentially all about microbiology, with yeast and bacteria consuming compounds like acids, amino acids and sugars to form a delicious and complex drink. Quality of the end product, however, depends on maintaining proper control of this process as the grape juice magically turns itself into wine.

If the environmental factors aren’t attended to in the appropriate way, the end result could prove quite disastrous… and there’s nothing worse than a wine you can’t drink!

There are all sorts of intriguing winery lab techniques that modern oenologists employ to produce industrial wine, everything from assimilation tests and enzyme analysis to paper chromatography, titratable acidity, polymerase chain reactions and lots, lots more.

And there’s a vast array of different chemical reagents that oenologists bring in to ensure the stability and quality of their wines. We’re talking the likes of caustic potash (a cleaning agent and sanitiser), sorbic acid (used to prevent off-dry wines from fermenting once bottled), velcorin (an antimicrobial), lysozyme (used to prevent spoilage) and so on.

It’s worth bearing in mind, of course, that not all the techniques and additives that exist will be used by oenologists all the time, rather that they’re turned to as and when is necessary at the appropriate time during the fermentation process to be more assured of the final product.

And this is where modern industrial wines differ from their natural counterparts. As impressive as it might well be that oenologists are able to adjust everything they want, from the colour and aroma to the clarity and flavour, this has the added result of altering the wine’s terroir characteristics beyond recognition.

What’s interesting is that it doesn’t have to be this way and, in fact, you don’t need to fall back on these techniques and tricks of the trade to deliver a well-rounded and delicious wine, one that’s uniquely specific to the region in which the grapes are grown.

Natural wines have long been made without this kind of interference, with excellent tipples achieved without the use of additives or newfangled equipment. 

That’s not to say that it’s easy to make, however, and vignerons have to be seriously in tune with the natural fermentation processes in order to deliver good-quality wine… but the resulting drink tastes quite like nothing else out there on shop shelves. Get yourself a bottle or two and you’ll soon see what we mean!

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