Under the microscope, all things acquire a different magnitude and meaning. All what we cannot see suddenly has shape, color and even generate different landscapes.
What is behind a glass of wine? Using the magnifying glass, worlds reveal themselves and with them, many times an unexpected beauty appears. What is hidden behind its elements and colors? Who is responsible of its genesis?
Next we will unveil ten characters behind the wine spirit.
Warning. This article does not pretend to be a photo essay, not even say a scientific paper. At the most it is an excuse to talk about wine and a pretext to see it differently.
Far from being the fuits of the rosehips at their green stage, these ovoid balls are the portrait of the Saccharomyces Cerevisiae, the yeast responsible of eating sugar and transform it into alcohol, carbonic gas and heat. Basically, the image corresponds to the protagonist of any history, whose end of the line be a bottle of wine.
The yeast, after its peaceful death, shall precipitate with other sediments (such as salts, color particles and other phenolic compounds) which could compose a certain type of cosmic landscape, as beautiful as this one. (Picture by Vinlab)
It certainly looks like a picture by Salvador Dalí. Nonetheless they are tannins. The tannin is a polyphenol found in the skin and seed of the grape. It behaves as a natural preservative and provides an astringent sensation in the mouth (the same one we would feel when we drink tea for instance). This astringency is felt mainly when we drink a red wine, specially Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Tannat or Petit Verdot. (Images by Tannings.org)
To the naked eye, they seem painkiller pills, but they are lactic bacteria, the responsible of generating a secondary fermentation called “malolactic”. The bacteria will eat malic acid (the acid present in green apples for instance), and will turn it into lactic acid. The action of these bacteria provides the wines an aspect of unctuosity, softness and complexity (aromas from butter, milk and yogurt). Image by Urbina Vinos.
It is obvious that these creatures are not at all photogenic. They resemble worms swimming in a sea of spider webs, but these are acetic bacteria. The work when the wine is exposed to oxygen for an undetermined time. In other words, they are the responsible ones of a vinegary wine… there is a coherence between aspect and connotation. Image by Urbina Vinos.
Dr Gary Greenberg is an American photographer who, at his elderly age, decided to return to his studies of phd in biochemistry and it seems that, at the end of the road, he merged both passions. This take, almost poetic, belongs to a wine show of Boujelais Nouveau, revealed by microscope. With only seing the image, I feel like I could fly. Maybe I woud dare try. Image by Gary Greenberg.
Botrytis is a fungus that attacs the vine damaging the quality of the grape. However, the attack of the Botrytis Cinerea (whom we may see in the image) is known as the “noble rot”. The botrytized wines complex and expensive to make, buy the final result usually is a sweet balm for the soul; and the microscopic portrait does justice to the final product.
Here we introduce the Bretanomyces or simply “Brett”. Animal smell, to stable or sweat (at different levels) is the cause of directly action from the worm like yeast.
It is the bogeyman of the majority of the contemporary winemakers, however, up to a few decades ago, it was expected that a wine smelled of brett. Currently some experts look at it with certain indulgence, adducing that a touch of brett make a lot of wines to win in complexity and be better valued by the consumer. What do I know, it is a matter of tastes, not my taste though.
The Quercus Alba is a variety of oak which, generally, is used at the barrel coopers in America, and this is how it is seen in the microscope. The oak wood will give the wines toasted aromas, also aromas of caramel, coffee and vanilla. Also it provides through its tannins stability to the wine, via the micro oxygenation produced through the pores of the wood.
White wine sample
What we see in the image is a sample of white wine in the microscope (of anonymous origen).
The image was done by first crystalizing the beverage at a tray in the lab. A standard light microscope with a camera connected was used. The source of the light was polarized and passed through the crystal generating a unique and wonderful visual. The image belongs to Alcoholic Science.