Are you ready for Chemistry 101? The most important formula you will ever need to know about wine is this:
SUGAR + YEAST = ALCOHOL + CO2
That’s it. Simple. Right? Winemaking is basically a science experiment! Wine makers can manipulate the end flavor and quality of their wine across the entire life cycle from vineyard to bottle. The real magic happens when the natural sugars found in the grape’s pulp (referred to as BRIX) encounter either natural or wild yeast or when the wine maker adds yeast to initiate fermentation.
When all the sugar has been converted to alcohol, or the yeast cannot convert all the sugars as the level is too high, fermentation is complete. Winemakers also can stop fermentation before the sugar is fully converted if they want some residual sugar to remain resulting in varying levels of sweetness in the wine.
Different regions and organizations who control the wine making process, quality standards etc. dictate different aspects of the fermentation process, but for our purposes, we’re going to keep the formula simple and focus more on how white wine making differs from red wine making, otherwise, we’ll be here forever!