Next Nature

There are people who think what makes a good wine comes from nature – factors like rain and soil and temperature. Then there are those who think it’s a matter of second nature – of picking and fermenting and ageing. But these days, there’s a whole new world of wine making technology – and a whole new argument as to what is “natural” and what is not.

These days, its chemists rather than vignerons who are increasingly in charge of technique. It is illegal in the United States and in many other countries to add flavours or colourings. But it isn’t illegal to add oak chips to wine fermenting in stainless steel barrels to get that “oak finish” promised on the label.

Adjustments can be made in the level of carbon dioxide, to vary acidity and fruitiness, or grape juice can be introduced as a sweetener. Powdered tannins can be added for a firmer feel on the palate. Pressure can be used to separate alcohol from acid. The technique known as micro-oygenation aerates the wine and gets around the need for the age old and labour intensive process known as racking.

These increasingly popular technologies shift wine making away from the idea of a process subject to regional variations in climate and seasonal variations in weather. Nature no longer rules; second nature eliminates the necessary vagaries of wind and water and sunshine. While the images and copy on the labels still refer to the wine makers ancient status as an alchemical transformer of nature into art, the reality is otherwise.

From Freakin’ fascinating.


Draws. Sweats. Eats too much sugar-free candy.

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