To make wine one must come to terms with the reality of labor distribution amongst participants. I like to call myself “winemaker”, but in more exact terms I am a yeast do-gooder, a facilitator of a happy life for vast societies of microorganisms. After all, without happy yeasts and bacteria, we would have mediocre wine at best, at worst, no wine at all! Gulp…I will put ego aside and admit that I do NOT make the wine. THEY do. But who are they?
Most wines are made with Saccharomyces cerevisiae, a wine yeast indigenous to oak bark. Many winemakers use wild versions of this yeast family, cultivated in their wineries as a result of years of fungal blooms (mostly in wine!) I prefer to inoculate my wines with lab created strains, in order to prevent the presence of biogenic amines to which I am uncomfortably allergic.
Some wines are made with Saccharomyces Bayanus, a wine yeast more tolerant of high alcohol and SO2, and thus used for sparkling wines, fruit wines, and stuck wines (those that refuse to ferment to desired dryness for a myriad of mysteries!)
These wee creatures consume sugars and convert them to a few primary waste products; ethanol, carbon dioxide, heat, small amounts of sulfuric compounds and some volatile acids. Sadly, they can only swim in their delicious waste for so long…above 16% alcohol and they all perish. This is the primary reason for table wines remaining under 16% alcohol without distillation.