The Wonder of Nature’s Influence on Our Hedonistic Pleasures

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GrapevineThe natural and scientific components of winemaking are similar to the production of numerous other products. These products share the core processes and procedures of winemaking, but deviate at some point in their unique lifecycles.

Examples abound. Coffee, cheese, bread, yogurt, chocolate, beer and spirits production share certain critical steps of winemaking that have a major influence on the end product sold in the marketplace.

This week, I’m summarizing the past three weeks of comparing and contrasting winemaking to other products. I’m focusing on a comparison of the chain of ingredients and processes that result in your favorite wine, coffee and chocolate.

To do so, I’ve identified four major elements along the production chain that I feel best exemplify these similarities.

  1. The baseline agricultural environment

Wine: Select grape varietals will only achieve optimum expression under a very specific balance of soil, climate, elevation and exposure to the sun (in the aggregate, referred to as terroir).

Coffee: The unique terroirs of select regions of South America and Asia are conducive to the best expressions of certain coffee bean varieties.

Chocolate: The finest cacao beans are grown within 20 degrees of the equator, where a consistently warm and humid terroir produces thriving cacao trees and crops. The most highly prized crops are from Ecuador, Venezuela and the West Africa region.

  1. The core ingredients

Wine: The horticultural species that produces the finest wine grapes is Vitis Vinifera. From this species, hybrids have been developed that thrive in specific regions. An example: Burgundy wines produced from the Pinot Noir grape in the Burgundy region.

Coffee: Two species account for the greatest production of beans. The Arabica

species is highly flavorful and relatively low in caffeine and acidity and accounts for nearly 70 percent of coffee sold and brewed around the world. The Robusta species tends to be more bitter, less flavorful and contains double the caffeine of the Arabica.

Chocolate: The species commonly grown is Theobroma. Three strains of Theobroma dominate cacao bean production. The Criollo is the most highly prized, followed – in decreasing flavor and quality – by Trinitario and Forastero.

  1. The transformation process

Wine: Harvested grapes are fermented utilizing select forms of yeast for various lengths of time, and then crafted in a winery to achieve a desired aroma, flavor and alcohol profile.

Coffee: Coffee berries are harvested at their peak. Beans are then extracted from the berry, typically through a fermentation process, dried to 11 percent moisture, bagged and shipped (as “green coffee”) to roasting houses.

Chocolate: Beans are extracted from a harvested cacao pod, then fermented and dried. As with winemaking, fermentation is the key step that differentiates one finished chocolate product from the next. In the hands of a chocolate processor, this vital link in the chain creates the true flavors and textures that chocolatiers seek.

  1. The final influence

Wine: Fermented wines are aged and/or blended by a winemaker to craft a unique statement of his or her creativity.

Coffee: The green coffee beans undergo roasting and brewing processes. Professional roasters coax the internal heat of beans to 400 degrees, until the internal oils begin to emerge. Light, medium or dark roasts refer to the duration of the roasting process. It is through this process that the distinctive aromas and flavors of each batch of (now brown) beans are created.

Chocolate: In another vital link in the process, a chocolate manufacturer roasts fermented beans. These beans are separated into three components – a liquid (for flavor), a butter (for texture) and a powder (for finesse). The recipe for the proportions of these ingredients, combined with sugar, lecithin and vanilla, creates the ultimate bulk chocolate sold to chocolatiers. This bulk chocolate is sold onward to select chocolatiers, the final link in the process. The ultimate fine chocolate bar/truffle is crafted from their proprietary recipes and processes.

With this further knowledge of the similarities and differences of these three products, I encourage you to compare and contrast the numerous examples in the marketplace. You’re likely to discover new favorites of each.

Nick Antonaccio is a 45-year Pleasantville resident. For over 25 years, he has conducted wine tastings and lectures. Nick is a member and program director of the Wine Media Guild of wine journalists. He also offers personalized wine tastings. Nick’s credo: continuous experimenting results in instinctive behavior. You can reach him at

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