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winemaking witchery Print
Written by Nikitas Magel   

Winemaking Witchery Series: Introduction
Essays on the use of Chemical Additives & Enhancements in Winemaking

During my studies for the WSET Diploma in Wine and Spirits, I developed an avid interest in wine chemistry.  That such a seemingly dry and admittedly even nerdy topic could be so engrossing was surprising enough.  But as I assimilated more on the subject, an initially shocking realization finally took hold of me: all wine, to one degree or another, during its production, is chemically manipulated.  What?!  At first, I couldn't fathom how a purportedly natural agricultural product could be altered and still be, well, natural.  I quickly learned from the perspective of enology — something that undeniably applies to food chemistry, in general — that the line between natural and artificial is so blurry, it may arguably not even exist.

Rather, the issues fall along a continuum: there are varying extents, permutations, and levels of skill in the manipulation of wine, and so it all boils down to how well a wine is subjectively perceived to be in harmony and balance.  Given that I'm sure the vast majority of consumers have little to no idea of the extent to which wine is manipulated in its production, I felt compelled to write about the use of chemical additives and enhancing processes in winemaking, and presenting my opinion on the impact of those choices in that process.

Following is the Winemaking Witchery series (in progress), each essay of which covers a topic in the use of chemical additives and enhancements in the production of wine (those with active links are published):

My intention in writing these essays is to present an inside look at some of the techniques that go into winemaking, devoid of any value judgment.  I believe that consumers should be aware that — perhaps counterintuitively — a great deal of manipulation goes into the production of wine.  However, this is in no way intended to cast a negative light on the realities of wine production, but rather to help provide a more complete picture.  In fact, in the words of wine authors James Halliday and Hugh Johnson:

"Wine is arguably the most natural of all of the long-life food stubstances available.  Compared to most packaged foods, the number of added substances not naturally present in wine is tiny."{footnote}James Halliday & Hugh Johnson, The Art and Science of Wine (London: Mitchell Beazley, 2003), 218.{/footnote}

And so, while I seek to inform casual reader, I try to do so in a way that pre-empts any faulty conclusions that may otherwise skew an evaluation of some of these techniques in the context of wine consumption.  An informed consumer is a savvy consumer. end

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