The Question; Is Wine A Science Or An Art?


Is wine a science or an art?

This was the first question that popped into my head this morning. The constant battle between art and science is finding its way into different aspects of our lives, and it seems wine is not left out. On the one hand, I feel due to the manufacturing process wine undergoes, it should be classified as a science (after all, the production process is a chemical process). But on the other hand, art is an expression of creativity, and I get a feel of that anytime I sip a bottle of my favorite wine.

Even while I was pondering over the question this morning, a small part of me kept saying; wine is neither an art or science, it is just a drink.

Well, a good number of people usually share that notion, it is just a drink and not more. But In vino veritas – in wine, there is truth, in wine, there is something more. So, it struck me, if there is more to wine, it means there is more to it being a science.

Let’s trace our steps as we try to uncover this mystery. Firstly, let me just say this, to me, wine is, without doubt, an art. Nevertheless, I will gladly mention that science has a crucial role play. Nobody can dispute what science has done in terms of improving wine quality in the last century.

A walk through memory lane science has played a key role in helping shape wine. Sulphur dioxide has had a profound effect on wine. It has been used for centuries as a preservative. In today’s wine, it is used to prevent browning and retain freshness. Sugar has also found its use in wine, not just as a sweetener but also as an additive to help increase alcoholic strength. Let’s not forget the achievement of Louis Pasteur. He discovered the principles of fermentation and also played a crucial role in improving the stability of wine.

The point of the above paragraph is that while science has done a fabulous job over the years, all of its contributions to win would amount to nothing without the artistic touch of humans (the people who devote their lives to making wine).

The reason why this question stuck with me this morning was because of a documentary I watched on YouTube about an artist. At the end of the documentary, I kept asking myself. Why did she want to go into music? What birthed that passion in her?

Although the answer is a bit superficial, it addresses the root of the issue. All artistic endeavors find their motivation from a need to express oneself; to dabble in the path of creativity.

This applies to winemaking as it does to writing, painting, fashion, or any other art.

Ancient Greeks often describe wine as a representation of the earth, and winemakers the representatives of mother nature, acting as a conduit for wine to tell their tale. But here is the catch, making wine or just like any other art, involves making decisions.

It is the compilation of these decisions which birth the wine, from what seeds to plant, to where to plant. What are these decisions, if not artistic? Although science comes into play in the production process, the act of making wine requires decisions that are determined by the artistic values of the maker.

Besides, the very best wine has the tendency to move the consumer in ways science can never achieve. Science might have its plus side, but it does not bring the same kind of reaction and response, which are traits of how we react to wine (to art).

Wine has been in the world before science could bring an explanation. So, we can infer that wine can exist without science but certainly not without art. This last point is just to reinforce my view all along that wine is an art! And also a very good drink.