The process of making wine (in theory) is quite simple. Single cell plants of the genus 'Saccharomyces' consume sugar in grapes and transform it into approximately equal parts of alcohol and carbon dioxide.
It is the single celled plants that we commonly call 'yeasts' that are the real winemakers. The humans who take the name 'winemaker' can largely be called technicians. A large percentage of winemaking has little to do with the winemaker.
A winemaker's main concern in the early stage of winemaking is to prevent spoilage of the juice, expressing some style characteristics and then when ready - bottling it. In other words, the yeast is doing a great deal of the work and making the wine.
To develop a good understanding how wine is made, as opposed to preserved, you need only to understand the fermentation process. If there is an art to winemaking, and there certainly is, then it is the art and skill of controlling the chosen yeast for the grape varietal and style of finished wine required.
It is the art of selecting the appropriate yeast, introducing it at the correct moment, feeding and nurturing it so as to entice it into living, reproducing and dying in a set manner, and then cleaning up after it so as to preserve the natural fruit characters after its hard work. It is the art of controlling the temperature, the amount and kind of air it is allowed to breathe, and feeding it the sugar and other nutrients it needs to serve the winemaker. For it is not in the nature of yeast to serve anyone, but rather yeast exists to serve yeast.
It could be said, that controlling yeast is the real art of making wine. It is very important to use high quality yeast in all your winemaking. Yeast is the workhorse that converts the initial sweet syrupy must into great-tasting wine. It is also not surprising that the finest winemakers use quality dried wine yeast. If you're making quality wine, you want the best.
'Wild yeast' - that is a topic all on its own, so watch this space for another article in the future. Click Here: