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Alcoholic Fermentation: What Is It, and Why Is It Important?

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If you’ve ever enjoyed a glass of Chardonnay or Champagne, it’s time to raise a glass to the chemical process known as alcoholic fermentation. Without it, your favorite wine couldn’t give you a little buzz. You’d just be drinking grape juice.  

But how does it happen? We talked to some of our favorite winemakers, cider brewers and sommeliers to get all the details on alcoholic fermentation. But don’t get it twisted: The stars of this story are yeast and sugar, since there would be no alcohol without either. Here’s everything you need to know about it. 

What Is Alcoholic Fermentation?

Alcoholic fermentation is the chemical process that creates alcohol. Basically, it comes down to yeast eating a form of sugar, which is the starting point for everything from beer and wine to sake and cider. Even hard liquors—like your favorite tequila, perhaps—start with simple alcoholic fermentation. It then goes through another process called distillation to become a spirit, but that’s a whole other story.