Sourdough and Wine

sourdough baking is like winemaking
Sourdough and Wine

Did you ever think that you would like to be a winemaker? In March of 2020, when the Pandemic forced us to stay home, many took to baking sourdough bread. I was one of those, and I am still baking today. Along the way of learning to bake sourdough bread, I discovered an amazing connection between sourdough and wine. There are many similarities between baking bread and making wine. Maybe you can’t be a winemaker, but you surely can become a sourdough bread maker.

Why Sourdough and Winemaking are Similar

The primary connection is the yeast and fermentation. We all know that when grapes are harvested and crushed, the yeast cells on the grapes’ skin begin to feast on the sugar and make alcohol and carbon dioxide. For the sourdough baker, native yeast cells are captured from the air and fed with flour and water. This mixture becomes the starter, a fermenting culture of yeast and beneficial bacteria.

yeast cells on grape skins

Native yeast yields character

It has been standard practice for many winemakers to kill native yeast cells by adding sulfur. Commercial yeast is more predictable. Today this thinking is changing, and artisan winemakers realize that native yeast on grapes can yield character and other benefits to the wine. Native yeast is part of the wine’s terroir.

yeast cells and grapes
Native yeast sourdough starter

The Sourdough Starter contains native yeast cells that give sourdough bread a unique flavor. The starter also contains other micro-organisms that are beneficial and healthy. Homemade sourdough bread and other related sourdough products are much healthier than any store-bought loaves of bread.

Blending flours is like blending grapes

When one bakes sourdough bread, the bread baker has many choices for flour. Will it be 100% bread flour or 100% all-purpose flour? Should we blend the white flour with a small amount of whole wheat, rye, or other type of flour? There are also specialty grown and milled flours. They are more expensive, but artisan flours are a good choice if you want the best loaf of bread.

Winemaking has similar choices to make in grape selection and blending options. The winemaker is continuously tweaking the correct grape selection and the amount of blending grapes.

More variables in the recipe

Time and temperature are as important variables to the bread baker as they are to the winemaker. Much of sourdough baking and winemaking is subjective and creative. There is no one recipe for baking bread or making wine.

The winemaker has choices for aging the wine: French or American oak, concrete, or stainless steel. The baker must choose the correct baking environment. You can bake sourdough in clay containers, a dutch oven, a cast-iron combo cooker, or a brick oven. I have a Challenger Bread Pan and it has made a big improvement in my baking. I compare it to the winemaker getting a top-of-the-line oak barrel for aging wine.


Scoring (not rating points) a loaf of bread is akin to the label on a bottle of wine. Scoring takes place just before the dough goes into the oven. Scoring allows the trapped gases to escape. When one scores the bread, it gives the loaf a decorative look and a nice design. Scoring is the breadmaker’s label.

Judging the product

Just like a bottle of wine, once the bread is complete, we judge the product. Taste, bread rise, the crumb, the crispiness, and more. I like to rate my bread as the Robert Parker rates wine, by the 100-point scale. My best to date is 90 points. I’m still learning, as does a winemaker looking for the 100-point score.

Sourdough Bread

There are lots of rewards to baking sourdough bread. There is something magical when you take the bread from the oven and observe its shape and size. The aromas fill the entire kitchen. I love sharing our sourdough with friends and neighbors. I love opening up a bottle of wine, red or white, tearing a piece of sourdough, and adding a healthy dose of soft cheese to the bread. What a feast!

If you are interested in becoming a sourdough baker, these are the links and resources I have found to be the most useful:

Best wine to savor while baking breads – Dry Creek Vineyard Chenin Blanc

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