Did you ever wonder what is in the glass of wine you are drinking? We know wine is made from grapes and yeast, but perhaps you did not know there is a long list of other ingredients that wine can contain. Winemakers can use as many as 60 different products to remedy issues or increase the flavor of a wine. You, the wine drinker, have no way of knowing which ingredients went into the wine. There is no law requiring producers to list the ingredients on the labels. There are really only two required items that must be listed on a label: if there are sulfites and the alcohol level of the wine. Most winemakers oppose volunteering this sort of information as they do not want to scare people by discussing the production and ingredients.
Additives in wine are nothing new. The ancient Romans tried to make their wines more palatable by doctoring them with various ingredients. Some of these items weren’t so good for consumption (such as lead and marble dust). There is no evidence that similar ingredients are used today.
Wine has been described as the perfect beverage. Leave a vat of grapes in a container for long enough and eventually the natural yeasts coating the grape skins will turn the grape’s sugary juices into alcohol. This has been the basics of winemaking for thousands of years.
In today’s winemaking world few winemakers rely on such a simple process. Modern producers may add a number of other ingredients so as to enhance flavors, obtain specific aromas and build texture in the wine.
Aside from grapes and the winemaker’s patience and passion, this list includes some of the top ingredients used by many winemakers in the production of wine:
Flavors: Winemakers use oak barrels to add subtle notes of vanilla and spice to their wines. Some winemakers will also add oak powders, oak chips or oak staves to a barrel to increase these flavors.
Sulfur Dioxide: Adding “Sulfites” to wine is one of the most common additives. The process helps preserve the grapes and prevents oxidation during the winemaking process. If the Sulphur Dioxide exceeds 10mg per liter it must be listed on the wine label.
Water: Water is added to bring down alcohol levels and balance the wine.
Yeast: Yeast is a crucial ingredient added to wine as it converts the sugars into alcohol.
Sugar: Adding sugar helps increase a wine’s alcohol content and also helps the yeast during the fermentation process.
Potassium Sorbate: Potassium Sorbate is added to wine as a stabilizer and it also adds sulfites to wine.
Potassium Metabisulfite: This is another sulfite additive that slows down fermentation and helps prevent micro-organisms from growing by removing oxygen.
Powdered Tannins: Tannins are natural components of grapes that are critical to the wine making process. They are found in the skins, seeds, stalks and stems of grapes. Sometimes they can be difficult to manage so some winemakers add powdered tannins to help balance the wine.
Calcium Carbonate: Calcium carbonate is used to reduce acidity in wine, usually prior to fermentation.
Grape Juice Concentrate: Grape juice concentrate, sometimes used in less expensive wines, can be used to boost a wine’s color and to add sugar.
Should we be worried about all the ingredients that are added to our wine? I do not think so, unless you learn the winery has added many more than the 10 or so we have discussed here. Adding more ingredients tells me the grapes were not very good, and they are propping up the flavor and taste with other ingredients. The standard of winemaking is higher than it’s ever been. If you are buying quality wines you have nothing to worry about.
As always, I appreciate your support of our wine blog and encourage you to share it with family and friends. If you are reading this blog for the first time please consider subscribing while you are on the website. This way you’ll get our reviews and articles delivered to you for free in your email box. If you care to share your comments on this blog posting or other topics please do so in the comments section below.
Look Forward To These Happy Things:
Upcoming LEX 530 Events!
LEX 530 Wine & Dinner Club Dinner – Friday, June 26, 2020 – SOLD OUT!
LEX 530 Wine & Dinner Club Dinner – Friday, July 17, 2020 – Live music by Patti Lightfoot and Jim Whitmer
LEX 530 Wine & Dinner Club Dinner – August Date TBD
Oktoberfest Dinner – Tuesday, September 22, 2020 – with Elkhart’s Iechyd Da Brewing Company
LEX 530 Wine & Dinner Club Dinner – Friday, November 20, 2020
Important Wine Holidays
June 26 – International Rosé Day (Friday!)
August 1-5 – International Albariño Days
August 4 – National White Wine Day
August 18 – International Pinot Noir Day
September 3 – International Cabernet Day