Friday, June 12, 2015

Thank Wasps For Wine

No one likes wasps. They’re hypodermic needles with wings and an attitude. But despite their habit of stinging you for absolutely no reason, we all owe the wonders of wine to these bad-tempered bugs.
During the summer, the fungus Saccharomyces cerevisiae grows on vineyard grapes, and this particular yeast is key in making wine, beer, and bread. Sure, winemakers add even more yeast later, but if S. cerevisiae isn’t present on the grapes from the start, the wine just won’t have the same taste. However, there’s one little problem. S. cerevisiae only grows during the summer. The winter chill should kill all the fungi off.
That’s where the wasps come in. Wasps love grapes. When the fruits ripen in the summer, the bugs chow down and fly back to their nests, where they give the masticated mush to their larvae.
When they eat the fruit, the insects ingest the yeast, and their stomachs provide the perfect environment for it to survive the frosty months. More importantly, when wasps feed their young, they pass the fungus to their babies. That way, when the larvae mature, they reintroduce S. cerevisiae to the vineyards and start the process all over again.

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