Wine makes Mommy and Daddy happy. Sometimes they drink wine together. Sometimes they drink wine alone. Sometimes they drink wine with one of your “uncles” or “aunts,” the ones you see naked by mistake. If you’re ever an uncle, you hope you aren’t so hairy down there.
But what is wine? What does it do that makes adults so happy? Why aren’t you allowed to drink any wine? And why does it smell like that? It always reminds you of the school janitor’s breath. You don’t think you’ll ever want to drink wine when you grow up. Wine isn’t for healthy adults. It makes them talk funny and extra loud. Mommy and Daddy love wine more than they love you.
Let’s try to understand wine, how it’s made and what it does to you.
WINE IS MADE FROM GRAPES!
You can make wine from any fruit, but the wine your parents drink is usually made from grapes. Not the grapes you buy from the grocery store, those are for eating, or inserting into any of the many holes in your body. That’s fun! See how far you can shoot them!
Wine is made from tiny little grapes that are grown in special places called “vineyards.” There are vineyards everywhere! But the best wines are made from grapes grown in just the best places in the world, like Burgundy and Napa Valley and Italy. Your parents probably don’t drink those wines. They are very expensive. Your parents drink wines from places like Modesto and Chile and Trader Joe’s. They should be ashamed. But I know they are not. Mommy says, “I can’t tell the difference between expensive wine and cheap wine.” This is probably the truth. Then she says, “But I know what I like!” Tell Mommy that’s what your Little League coach says when he puts his hands on your private places.
WHAT DO THEY DO TO THE GRAPES THAT MAKES DADDY FALL DOWN A LOT?
The people that own the vineyards hire poor people to pick the grapes when they are ripe. Poor people need jobs and will do anything. That’s how you know a job is horrible. Rich people pay poor people to do it. But it makes our life great. Remember to say "Thank You" to poor people when you see them. Be grateful. They made your expensive shoes and your sister’s iPhone. Remind the poor people that we are all one human race, that there is no “i” in iPhone. Well, there is, but the “P” is bigger, just like after Daddy drinks a lot of wine.
The grapes go in big trucks to where the wine is made. Can you guess what that place is called where they make wine? That’s right! It’s called a winery. Just like the place where they bake stuff is called a “bakery,” and where your grownup parents go with your "uncles" and "aunts" is the “adultery.”
At the winery, the grapes are gently pressed until all the juice can leak out. When Mommy’s not home, you can try this on your little brother. The grape juice sits around for about two weeks. While it’s sitting in the winery, little tiny living things get into the grape juice and turn it into wine. These are called cellar rats. No, that’s a little joke, kids. Cellar rats are the people who work in the winery. They’re just like real rats, only real rats live in nicer holes.
Little tiny living things called “yeast” get into the wine. Yeast are simple, one-celled organisms, sort of like Jehovah’s Witnesses. The yeast eat the sugar in the grape juice. They don’t even have mouths, so we don’t know how they eat the sugar. If they don’t have a mouth, can you even call it “eating?” There are lots of mysteries about wine.
To replace all the sugar they’ve eaten without a mouth, the yeast leave alcohol behind. Just like your sloppy aunt had to. The process of the yeast eating the sugar without a mouth and leaving behind some alcohol is called “fermentation.” This is the most important part of making wine because wine without alcohol is worthless. Your Daddy may talk endlessly about how the wine smells, and how it tastes like fruit you never heard of, like “lychee” and “cat piss,” and how the wine is a little young and needs some more time (like your babysitter!), but the reason Daddy and Mommy are drinking the wine is the alcohol.
Alcohol affects the brains of your parents. A little bit, and they are happy. But too much, and sometimes their brains don’t work right. You know how you like to spin around and spin around and spin around with your eyes closed until when you stop you aren’t able to stand up anymore and you feel like throwing up? That’s just like drinking wine! It’s funny, isn’t it, to try to walk after that! You crash into stuff, and fall down. Like when Daddy comes home late from a “business meeting” and smells like motel soap. That’s the work of our friends, yeast.
Remember, yeast are what cause two important processes—fermentation, and trial separation.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN THE YEAST ARE FINISHED MAKING ALCOHOL?
When fermentation is over, the grape juice is now called “wine.” But it’s not finished. It doesn’t taste very good right away, and someone has to make it taste better so that Daddy and Mommy can get their alcohol. That person is called a “winemaker.”
Just about anyone can become a winemaker. You don’t really need to know very much to be one. Maybe one day you’ll want to be a winemaker. If you don’t really like school and need a career, winemaker is a good choice. You don’t even need to be very good at it! There are lots of winemakers who don’t have a clue. I’m thinking this just might be the perfect job for you when you grow up. I hope you’re not a girl. The wine business is about old men, like Congress or Beano. Maybe when you grow up, that will be different. That’s another little joke, kids, nothing ever changes!
The winemaker has to do something with the grape juice that the yeast ate without a mouth and made into wine. Usually the winemaker puts the wine into something to hold it until it tastes better. It can be a barrel made out of oak, or it might be a big tank made from stainless steel, or it might even be a cement egg! Where do you find a cement egg? Look for a chicken with a butt that goes round and round! The wine sits in the barrel, or the stainless steel tank, or the cement egg until the winemaker decides it tastes good. Mostly, he just pretends to know.
Whether the wine tastes good or not, the winemaker puts it into a bottle. Then it goes to a bunch of old men so they can give it a number. These old men are called “wine critics.” This is another job you might consider that doesn’t require schooling, or knowledge, or talent! Sounds perfect for you, doesn’t it?
More about that another day.