We will talk about the berries, how to grow grapes and the science behind the wine itself. These miraculous and natural processes are lovely to think about. There’s a wide variety of alcoholic beverages that are made in pretty much all the same kind of way. They ferment a sweet liquid, and the fermentation process creates some alcohol, and that alcohol causes people silly. You could say that science is the difference between wine and the rest of these. Gin is a reasonably simple thing to make compared to having to grow the perfect grapes in the ideal climate and then turn that into wine. Some parts of the winemaking process get really complicated. But we’re going to try and give you the essence of this. Naturally, wine comes down from the berries, right the little berries.
Each little berry and each bunch of grapes is essential for a winemaker or someone who is running their vineyard. Their whole job is to know everything about the vines they’re growing. How much water they’re getting, their sunlight, and the climate. Winemakers have to keep an eye on every grape. Winemakers need to know how to grow grapes. Winemakers need to know how the berries look, how they taste, and how they smell. They need to know how they change throughout their growing seasons.
Structure of Grape
The structure of a grape is actually straightforward. It’s got the seed in the middle; it’s got the flesh, and then it’s got the skin on the outside. Like most fruit, wine is actually created from the flesh. But the other bits all contribute. Each piece of tissue has different compositions, which means that they contribute differently to how the final product of wine tastes. The wine can change just by changing the size of the berry. It can vary by how old the berry was when it was harvested. There are so many different little teeny nuances. The berry gets nutrients in two different ways xylem and phloem. If you remember biology class, the xylem is the vascular turn of a plant that transports water and minerals, growth regulators, nutrients, and so on from the roots all the way up to the vine. It’s also the phloem with the vasculature involved in taking a photosynthate or sucrose transport sugar; transport from the leaves back into the vine helps feed the grapes.
How to Grow Grapes in the First Period
The first growth period of berries lasts from the vines blooming to about 60 days afterward. During that period, the first berries are formed. The seed embryos are produced, and rapid cell division occurs every few weeks making the berry grow in size. That will determine the berry size. During the first growth phase, the berry is also increasing in volume. But the solutes inside of the berry are coming together to accumulate inside. Those solutes are many different things. But the most prevalent are Taric acids and malic acids. These acids are what give the wine its acidity and are very important when it comes to wine quality. They’re developing pretty early on. Other acids are accumulated throughout the growth period. It’s important because of their involvement in browning reactions, which is the color of the grape and the wine. Those acids are precursors to the volatile compounds that turn into the smell and the kind of whole experience of drinking the wine.
A very famous part of wine is tannin. Tannins are the staff responsible for red wine’s bitter and astringent properties. We’ll come back to astringency when we talk about drinking wine. These compounds are also believed to be important in red wine color stability. On top of all of those things, those are the things that affect the flavor; there are also things like minerals, amino acids, micronutrients, and aroma compounds, and those are all present during the first period of berry growth in the first 60 days.
Those acids can affect everything about your wine, and you don’t even get to make the wine yet. So after the first 60 days, the growth kind of levels off before the second growth period starts. And this is when the berry begins to get soft and change color and become a grape the way you would recognize it. During this period, the berry will often double in size. The solutes are still there, but their concentration is reduced because the berry is getting bigger. That’s why more mature grapes are less sour. This is because their concentration of the solutes is lower. Many compounds produced during the first growth period aren’t just diluted because of their very size. But that depends. It’s different depending on what berry you’re talking about. But malic acid is reduced considerably depending on climate. Say warmer regions; they’ll have less malic acid than a more excellent region. The tannins will decline because of oxidation, just being exposed to oxygen in the air. And other notable aroma compounds produced during the initial growth period will all decline as the fruit ripens.
The Second Growth Period
The most significant change during the second growth period of your grapes is the increase in unique sugar compounds. Most notably glucose and fructose. Glucose, simple sugar, fructose, fruit sugar. The increase is a result of a biochemical shift as the fruit ripens. The onset of ripening is called the veraison. Sugar becomes just everywhere in the berry. Sucrose is produced from photosynthesis. Once the berries are filled with sucrose, they hydrolyze into their sugars and become glucose and fructose. This process is pretty typical and happens in a lot of fruits.
The Job Of a Winemaker
A winemaker’s job is to watch this whole process and make sure that it’s going the best way possible to make wine. This doesn’t sound very easy, and it is not. The winemaker doesn’t know only how to grow grapes. The winemaker also needs to know its sugar content, climate, weather, and grape variety. How many leaves are there around? All of these different things, the soils, everything. All that so they can take it off the vine, mush it up, and ferment the crap out of it until it’s a delicious wine.
Seed In the Middle
In the end, these are plants; for plants isn’t the most important thing is how to grow the grapes and produce the wine. A plant’s job is to produce fruit so that that fruit can then create more plants. The berry is there because it has a seed in the middle. The priority of that plant is to drop that seed. So during the first growth period, the seeds are tart and sour and not very enjoyable for animals. So animals don’t eat them. But the seed is ready to start a new plant during the second growth period, and the berries get super yummy. I’ve eaten berries right off of the vine. Cabernet berries are very sweet. They’re super sugary. Way more than the big plump ones you get at the store. Now you know why. The big plump ones aren’t as consolidated with their flavor. But because they’re so tiny and so delicious looking, birds will want to peck it right off the vine and then go poop it out, so it grows a new plant. That’s the job of the vine. Of course, wineries don’t let that happen. They want to take the berries off the vine before they get to that point so they can turn them into wine.