Traditional and Industrial Wines

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

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There’s now a spectrum of approaches among winemakers, and so a spectrum of wines from which we can choose. At one end is the relatively straightforward approach found in traditional winemaking regions: the grapes are grown in a place and with methods that maximize wine quality; they’re simply crushed, fermented, the new wine matured for some time, and bottled. At the other end of the spectrum are advanced manufacturing processes that treat grapes and wine like other industrial materials. These aim to approximate the qualities of the traditionally produced wine by nontraditional means that are less labor intensive and less expensive. The grapes themselves need not be coaxed to an ideal ripeness because the winemaker can use various separation technologies to adjust their content of water, sugar, acid, alcohol, and other components. The effects of barrel and bottle aging can be simulated inexpensively and rapidly by means of oak chips or sawdust, and the bubbling of pure oxygen through wine stored in huge steel tanks.