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I was asking a few people irl about brewing wine and they were all stressing the need to add sugar to grape juice.

Is it really necessary to add sugar?

I find it surprising since, as far as I'm aware, people started producing refined sugar only in modern times, while wine was being brewed since antiquity, if not prehistoric times.

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Sugar is always a necessary component of the brewing process. However, adding refined sugar is not. In the case of wine, the primary source of sugar is from the grapes themselves, which of course produce natural sugars as they ripen.

The process of adding additional sugar in the winemaking process is called chaptalization and is often used to increase the alcohol content in wine made with grapes that don't have sufficient natural sugar to reach the desired level. This is common with cold-climate grown grapes, for instance. This process also does not require modern refined sugar...Any additional sugars may be used, such as the sugar in honey.

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