The Science of Wonderful Wine

Wine is a beverage that is steeped in history, having originated in the Middle East around 6,000 BC. Even as times changed, many vineyards prided themselves on their traditional approach to winemaking, continuing to use small oak barrels or even manually crushing grapes. Although this continues to be the case, most vineyards are moving to shore up their traditional approaches with scientific ones. What does this mean for the future of wine?

First we need to understand why chemistry becomes such a big part of winemaking. Chemistry is important in wine because it allows winemakers to put subjective values on objective tastes. At first this means being able to analyze sugar and acidity in a wine by numbers as opposed to taste, but as the chemistry evolves it becomes more advanced. Advanced wine labs can analyze a sample for certain notes. Winemakers can now control something as specific as how intense the apple notes in a given wine are.

Recent years have seen the growth of wine chemistry because of the increased popularity of molecular gastronomy. This is essentially using chemistry to cook and create perfect food. Cuisine and wine are inextricably intertwined, so it’s only logical that a surge in molecular gastronomy would accelerate any already thriving wine chemistry world.

Looking at Israel we can see some particularly interesting examples. Israel is one of the world’s technological hubs and this includes agricultural chemistry. Science is now getting involved in every step of the process, from genetically engineering the grape to chemical analysis of taste. Because Israel is small, it needs to make the most of its arable land. This pushes bio-engineers to constantly work towards the best possible fruit. During the 1990s, many of these engineers turned their sites to the wine industry. Israeli grapes have a tendency to get too sweet because of the intensity of the sun. Newer genetic variations of grapes were made to withstand heat and be slightly more acidic. This essentially put to bed the old stereotype of sweet, syrupy, Jewish wines.