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The magic of wine alchemy revealed

By Richard at Great Grog

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Wine is a complicated and magical business.
Wine is a complicated and magical business.

Wine is a complicated and magical business in which a viticulturist/winemaker turns the humble grape into a myriad different styles.

During the fermentation process, hundreds of thousands of tiny chemical reactions occur which form an almost endless list of chemical compounds that create the aromas typically recognised in wines.

As wine is a living product it continues to develop over time so aromas are constantly evolving.

These have three basic categories….

Primary aromas and flavours: fresh fruit, citrus, floral and herbal

These aromas come directly from the grapes themselves and so are affected by: Grape type – each grape has a unique and specific set of aroma compounds.

Climate – the same grape can produce a very different style depending on where it is grown.

Viticulture – how the viticulturist decides to farm the grapes will be based on what kind of wine he/she wants to produce.

Soil – the notion of terroir is one that has been hotly debated but it is widely accepted that soil types have an impact on wine quality and flavour.

Secondary aromas and flavours: butter, bread, cream, smoke, mushroom and game

These are derived from the fermentation process and so the winemaker’s choices and interventions are key.

The fermentation temperature, maceration time and whether to use inoculated or wild yeasts will all affect the final juice.

Barrel fermentation, battonage, malolactic fermentation are just a few of the techniques a winemaker can employ to alter the final flavour of the wine.

Tertiary aromas and flavours: toast, leather, marzipan, clove, caramel, spice, forest floor and petrol

These come purely from the ageing process and so again are not present in all wines but are affected by whether the wine was aged in stainless steel, American oak, French oak, age/size of cask, bottle age. There have been many cases where experts have been duped into believing the wine in their glass was something other than it is.

It is often their expertise that made them more likely to be fooled as their knowledge gave them certain expectations and unconscious bias of what would be in their glass.

Richard Meadows worked with a national wine chain for 10 years before setting up his own company in Edinburgh in 1999. A regular visitor to the Highlands, he now employs 15 people and sells via mail order and the internet as Great Grog.

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