The Alchemy of Wine

September 2016

Before modern science there was alchemy, a tradition that, among other goals, aimed to change one thing into another more valuable. Although we know that science is at the heart of the transformation of grape to wine, there is also a kind of alchemy taking place. The life force of the vine produces fruit that becomes wine, still breathing, evolving. As we drink it, our consciousness is fueled and enlivened. Our senses become more aware. This is the great gestalt of wine. It asks us to be still for a moment and listen to the story that binds us all within the energy of life.

Perhaps this is why wine has remained a significant and often controversial part of human history from the very first sip. Since wine’s discovery, people have been aware that it is more than just a pleasing beverage. Its medicinal properties have ensured its material value. But we continue to struggle to explain its unique ability to speak to a side of us that has no form. Maybe the Holy Grail is the answer. In legend, the Grail—a conduit to the secrets of life and divine grace—took the form of a vessel. What if the Holy Grail was actually the wine drunk from it?

The winemaker’s relationship to the grapes guides his or her decisions: whole or crushed berries; stems on or off; vessel size, shape and form; stainless steel, fiberglass or oak. Pump over or punch down, by paddle or foot—all have the goal of introducing oxygen to help the yeast grow and convert the sugar to alcohol. Energy is commingling, cells splitting. Alchemy is taking place, transforming a sweet little grape into a timeless elixir. One can call the process science, but the life within wine is pure magic.

The Alchemy of Wine | Terroir Talking