Wine and Coffee: Why does understanding Wine help us better understand Coffee?

Vietnamese Coffee Exporter
Wine and Coffee Why does understanding Wine help us better understand Coffee

This is an introductory series on Wine and Coffee. In this article, We are talking about wine made from grapes, not rice or fruit-based varieties.

The Specialty coffee industry has been borrowing ideas, marketing, and enjoyment from alcohol for quite some time now. In the last ten years, many new coffee processing methods have also been influenced by alcohol processing.

With a history of more than 8000 years, thousands of grape varieties (derived from Vitis vinifera), and a market worth more than 300 billion USD, the wine industry has always been at the forefront of technological development (especially in production and management quality), in how to enjoy (the Master Sommelier is perhaps the world’s most challenging test in assessing sensory knowledge and skills), and in how to add value (did you know good wine is the first part of the competition). Understandably, coffee learns from alcohol.

Over the past 30 years or so, what has coffee “learned” from alcohol?

The concept of Terroir (terrestrial)

Terroir describes how a vineyard’s soil, light, climate, and topography affect the wine.

Terroir is often seen as the main reason wines from different regions have their flavors. Although the “grapes taste differently because of different soils” hypothesis has no scientific basis, Terroir is often used to explain why there are certain flavors in wine.

For example, the same grape variety, Riesling, but Riesling in Alsace (France) is different from Riesling from Mosel (Germany) or Riesling from Clare Valley (Australia). The typical Alsace Riesling is often fruity, floral, and ‘lean’; Mosel Riesling can be more full-bodied, very acidic, and has a ‘minerality’ (mineral feel and smell). Riesling from Australia is often described as having a lot of tropical fruit, citrus, and medium-bodied.

In the same region, like Alsace (France), Riesling comes from vineyards with different soil types that produce different flavors. Some of the soils in Alsace commonly referred to are granite, gneissic, shale, or limestone soils.

Alsace vineyard map, each garden can have soil type, elevation, slope, sunlight, etc. Different flavors create wines with distinct flavors.

From Terroir to Fungi, Yeast, and Microbes

Recently, Terroir is not simply understood as land and weather. New studies show that the critical factor that creates the distinctive flavor of wine from each region depends heavily on fungi, yeast, and natural microbiota activity.

There are two main types of yeast: wild (wild), specific to each vineyard and inoculated (inoculated by the winemaker). Until the 1970s, fermentation was based on wild yeast. These yeasts are present on grapes, in the air, from the hand of the selector, in the press, in the container, etc. Burgundy’s flavors of wild yeast-fermented wines can be so different that each vineyard produces wine with the same Pinot Noir variety but different flavors.

Winemakers not only rely on wild yeast to ferment grapes but choosing yeast to create flavor has become the first choice, especially in the ‘New World’ regions. Non-European wine).

Want to create a red wine from Cabernet Franc grapes with medium tannins, rich mouthfeel, and great acidity but the less ‘herbal’ smell of this grape? ICV-D21 yeast may be the suitable yeast. How to make Syrah wine with flavors of strawberry, raspberry (raspberry), black pepper, and black currant (cassis)? Men SYR from Scott Lab is the answer. Same Syrah, but ICV-D80 yeast can make the wine smell like smoke and licorice, with a more explosive spice smell.

If the screening, production, and use of yeast is an industry and an indispensable step for wine, specialty coffee has only paid attention to the role of yeast in coffee processing in the last few years. If you want to gain a deeper understanding of how microorganisms, fungi, yeast, and germs can affect the taste of coffee, a specific knowledge of winemaking is a must.

Yeast from Scott Lab: Buying yeast for wine and beer is as simple as buying yeast for bread 😀

Fermentation process

Fermentation is not simply waiting for fungi, yeast, and bacteria to work. To create a good product, human hands are required for the fermentation process.

Emerging methods of preliminary coffee processing such as Anaerobic fermentation, Carbonic maceration, Lactic fermentation (fermentation with lactic acid bacteria LAB), Skin contact (soaked coffee with the husks and mucilage), Frozen fermentation (coffee is frozen immediately after picking), or Barrel-aged (fermented in wooden barrels) all learn from the wine industry.

Closer concepts and practices such as Brix measurement, pH measurement, temperature control, humidity, etc., became popular in coffee, also thanks to previous research in alcohol.

Carbonic maceration
Wine and Coffee: Carbonic maceration is the most modern coffee preparation method, but it’s not a new method of fermenting grapes.

Flavor wheel

The Wine Aroma Wheel was created by Ann Noble in the 1970s when she worked at the University of California, Davis. Over the past 50 years, this tool has made it much easier to enjoy, experience, understand, and write about wine.

Wine and Coffee Why does understanding Wine help us better understand Coffee (2)
Wine and Coffee: The Wine Aroma Wheel 

The Coffee Flavor Wheel was born in 1995 and was updated in 2016. It is not difficult to see the influence of the flavor table on the coffee wheel when you compare the two images below.

Thanks to the flavor wheel, the Specialty coffee industry has learned to describe coffee more vividly, imaginatively, and easy to market. The flavor wheel also helps us distinguish between ‘bad’ and ‘good’ flavors/tastes in coffee, helping us evaluate and feel coffee closer to the drinker.

Wine and Coffee

Understanding alcohol helps us understand more about coffee. At least for the writer, the fermentation process and studies on fungi, yeast, and microorganisms in wine help me a lot more in understanding the preliminary processing of coffee. However, alcohol and coffee should never be equated. We cannot compare Q Grader with Sommelier nor take the concept of ‘Terroir’ from alcohol to apply to coffee.

These are two different types of plants living in different environments. Coffee is the seed; grapes are the fruit. Coffee needs roasting; grapes only need to ferment. The distance from the vineyard to the production site is often insignificant, while collecting coffee at the primary processing station is often farther and more complex, and the means of transport are poorer.

In the following articles, We will understand what alcohol can be applied to coffee, from preparing coffee to enjoying and evaluating it.



Helena Coffee Vietnam

Helena Coffee Processing & Export in Vietnam | Helena., JSC, which was established in 2016, is a Vietnamese coffee exporter, manufacturer & supplier. We provide the most prevalent varieties of coffee grown in Vietnam’s renowned producing regions.

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