What Is Wine Made Of?
At its utmost basic, wine is made wholly of grapes. If one were to leave grapes in a container, the natural yeast found on the skins would eventually kickstart the fermentation process by eating the grapes' natural sugars. This is form of winemaking that has been around for the past 6,000 years.
While there is currently a growing market for natural wines, most modern winemakers and vintners no longer lean on the simplistic process anymore. With the advancement of technology, as well as the discovery of new ingredients, winemakers have learned to improve their wines over time by enhancing flavors, build textures and aromas, as well as extend longevity.
The most common way that grapes are turned into wine is through crushing and fermentation. The grape skins, seeds, and stems are removed from the equation as they can add bitterness to the final product. Once the "must" - or grape juice - is extracted, it is then placed in a containment where yeast is added. This yeast will eat away at the sugars in the grape juice and turn it into alcohol and carbon dioxide. The newly formed wine is then left to age in either wooden barrels, or stainless steel vats before it is ready to be consumed.
Other ingredients that are commonly added to modern wines include shellfish-derived products such as chitosan which is used as a clarifier, preservatives such as potassium metabisulfite, used to prevent fermentation, thus, stabilizes the wine, and potassium sorbate, used to help protector the flavor of the wine; both also help protect the wine against bacteria and other undesirables.
While some of these ingredients may seem foreign, and even scary, to the average wine drinker, they are all regulated by the government to ensure that they are safe for human consumption and do not alter the taste of the wine in a negative way. So, next time you're enjoying a glass of your favorite cabernet sauvignon or chardonnay, remember all of the hard work - and love - that went into making it.
While the process of winemaking has changed and evolved over time, one constant remains: wine is still made from grapes. And as long as there are grapes, there will be wine. So, cheers to that!