No Wasps, No Wine

Posted by Kelly Liang on 13 July 2018

No Wasps, No Wine

Ever wondered why wasps exist? 

Many would rate wasps as one of the most annoying insects along with mosquitos and flies. Well, here is a reason why we wine lovers need these stingy bugs – wasps are essential for turning grapes into wine!  

Yeast is responsible for fermentation, the process which turns grapes into young wine. Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Latin for “sugar-mold of beer,” is a type of yeast that naturally grows on grapes and gives them their complex meringue and butter-like taste.  

Of course, vineyards can choose to add other strains of yeast during the winemaking process, giving their wine more subtlety and to add their chateau’s signature touch. But without the naturally occurring yeast saccharomyces cerevisiae, the initial fermentation process would simply not happen in the first place. 

Interestingly, grapes cannot retain this naturally occurring yeast without the help of wasps. Like all yeast, saccharomyces cerevisiae can only survive in warm environments and dies when winter comes. Wasps are what keep saccharomyces cerevisiae alive from one harvest to the next. 

Like us, wasps love grapes. When they eat the juicy ripe summer grapes, they also take some saccharomyces cerevisiae into their body, which is an ideal environment for the yeast to survive the cold winter months. Wasps also pass down the yeast to wasp larvae by feeding them. When the larvae mature, saccharomyces cerevisiae is naturally present in their system and ready to be reintroduced to the next season’s grapes. 

The next time you wish that these buzzing little creatures did not exist, think twice. No wasps, no wine! 

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