Wine, Gardening and Chemical Reactions!

The Chemistry of Chemical Reactions

             Chemistry, when you read or hear the word you may get tears in your eyes. You may emit a long, deep audible breath that is an expression of sadness, frustration, or tiredness. Whatever your reaction to chemistry, if you are reading this blog, that means that you are in it. And my suggestion: study like your life depends on it and maybe, just maybe you will get a B. The truth is that chemistry comes into our daily lives on so many levels and we don’t even know it. Thus, in an attempt to teach you one part of a very multi layered subject, I’m hope that I can make it more relateable to you than you may think. The part I have chosen to teach you is decomposition reactions, yeah!

Hopefully everyone is somewhat familiar with the basics of a chemical reaction. I am going to give a quick refresher for those that need it.  We first have to start with the creation of a compound. A chemical compound is one element combined with another element in order to form a compound. As we have learned, the most important thing we look for in chemistry is neutrality. In order for us to make a chemical equation we must keep in mind that the charge on the chemical compounds must be balance. By balanced we of course mean the charge on each chemical compound must equal zero. If you need a refresher on the charges of elements then you can reference the chart below. If the information about which I am speaking is not ringing a bell or doesn’t seem familiar; go back through your nomenclature and give yourself a good refresher. You may also need a refresher on your solubility rules or keep them handy so you can easily refer to them.


Once you have your balanced compound then you can start to the chemical equations, in which one compound can be added to another compound to make what’s called a chemical reaction. This is what you will be doing in the lab; mixing together certain substance and/or compounds with other substances or compounds to create a reaction. This is simply the written form of that chemical reaction. This is a picture that I found online that shows the basic types of Chemical Reactions and also gives an example of them using real compounds.


From these chemical reactions that I have shown you, I have chosen to highlight decomposition reactions. I do have to say that usually you will see an arrow between the reactions like in the picture and not an “equals” sign.   Also, when writing chemical reactions, they should be written with an arrow. Decomposition reactions are fairly easy to identify.  You will always have one compound that will decompose to create two or more separate elements or compounds.  Heat is also a popular catalyst for decomposition reactions. Adding heat to the reaction will be represented as a triangle over the arrow or equals sign.

There are three different kinds of decomposition reactions and according to our wonderful textbook Introductory Chemistry, they are listed as follows (Corwin 2014):  Metal Hydrogen Carbonates, Metal Carbonates and Miscellaneous Oxygen-Containing compounds. Metal hydrogen compounds require heat in order for the reaction to take place known as the catalyst. The first is Metal Hydrogen Carbonates and an example of this is sodium hydrogen carbonate that reacts with heat to create sodium carbonate, plus water, plus carbon dioxide.  This is the chemical equation in written form: 2NaHCO3 (g) = Na2CO3(s) + H2O(l) + CO2(g).  The second is Metal Carbonates.  These need prolonged heat in order to react.  An example is calcium carbonate.  It is decomposed by heating to produce calcium oxide and carbon dioxide.  The written chemical equation is: CaCO3 (s) = CaO(s) + CO2(g).  The third and final, is Miscellaneous Oxygen-Containing Compounds.  These are oxygen compounds containing gas that reacts by adding heat to release the oxygen gas. An example of this is mercury (II) oxide powder. It is decomposed with heat to create liquid mercury and oxygen gas.  The written chemical equation is: 2HgO(s) = 2Hg(l) + O2(g).

For this level of chemistry, the explanation of decomposition reactions does not require greater detail.   Although if this is the first of more required chemistry classes for you then you will probably be doing more in-depth study.   Organic chemistry especially deals with decomposition reaction.  The following two topics that I have chosen to highlight involve chemical decomposition reactions. Wine and gardening; both of which I love and have taken a great interest in, not only in my personal life but in my professional life as well.

Viticulture, Enology and Zymology


I’ll begin with a little information about wine. In an academic article called Viticulture and Enology M.L. Issitt gives a brief history of wine (Issitt, 2014).   Humans have been cultivating grapes and making wine for close to 8,000 years, with its origins in the Middle East. Wine in ancient Egypt was taken very seriously even going to the extent of the deceased being entombed with it for consumption in the afterlife.  Then romans discovered the process of aging wine in oak barrels and found that it changed the flavor of wine. Out of the 400 different species of oak only 20 different species are considered worthy enough for making wine. Wine production started to decline in the mid 1800’s.  That’s when the Emperor of France, Napoleon III asked the chemist Louis Pasture to figure out on a chemical level what was happening to make it decline.  That led to the field of Enology.  Wine making began in America in the mid-18th century. Today 90 percent of wine produced in America comes from California.

There are many different fields that include one process of the production of wine. Viticulture refers to the cultivation of the grapes, this goes into the growth of the grapes and the varietals. There are over 10,000 different varietals of grapes and each varietal is dependent on the terroir which means climate, soil and slope. Secondly, there is enology that refers to the study of wine and wine making. Lastly there is Zymology; this is the study of the fermentation process that not only includes wine but also beer and bread. It is a huge industry, as this was explained in the articles: Viticulture and Enology and Zymology and Zymurgy (Renneboog Issitt, 2012).

When I speak to people about wine I tell them it’s like learning a language. Words like terroir that refer to slope, climate, and soil. Tannins refers to the cloudy substance on the outside of grapes, which is a natural thing that happens during the growing process and plays a vital role in how wines taste.  There are laws that govern how wine is made. In Italy you can face jail time, and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines if you make wine not in accordance to certain laws. You can major in wine, and there are people out there that are so serious about wine they will go to the extent of paying thousands of dollars for one bottle of wine. There are so many different aspects of wine but only one single chemical process, a decomposition reaction, that is responsible for what makes wine, well wine. The picture below provides an amazing process of how yeast react with the grapes to make specific characteristic of wine. The top being the chemical decomposition into ethanol and carbon dioxide written it looks like this:

C2H12O6 = C2H5OH + CO2


In conclusion next time you open a bottle of wine if it’s red, let it breathe and when you take sip, stop and think, all it takes is one chemical reaction.  Without this enzymatic reaction that takes place, wine would cease to exist. I hope that I have been successful in educating you a little with both the world of wine and how chemistry plays the vital role in its creation. On that note thinking about wine and grapes which are plants that brings me to my next topic, gardening!



Gardening is something that I relate to on a personal level. As a child my parents had an enormous garden and my sisters and I were slave labor weeding it. Yes, of course I’m being dramatic but I spent many long summer mornings pulling weeds. As a child I hated it but now I have a great appreciation for it now and I feel lucky that I have parents that are amazing at gardening and also gave me the genetic gene for it, or more likely, just an appreciation for thrill of growing beautiful, life-sustaining foods. Plus, if I ever have any questions about my plants, I’m on the phone with my dad and mom getting the answers. I have included some pictures of my parents garden that are amazing and without having a degree in botany or horticulture they have cultivated the soil for more than thirty years and made beautiful surroundings for themselves. Every tree, bush, flower and rock was put there with their four hands. They have self-taught themselves everything they know about gardening, and they will tell you the number one most important thing for a good garden is good soil and what makes good soil is compost containing all the living organisms breaking down rocks, plant matter, clay, the byproduct of which  is vital compounds essential for plant life.


In this portion I will present information that shows that decomposition reactions in chemistry that are essential for the growth of all plant life and in that supporting life on earth.  Students, the horticulturist, and the average regular Joe gardener will benefit from this information. Ammonia is an elemental compound that plays a vital role in not just the growth of a plant but the yield of vegetables/fruits that the plant produces. The decomposition of ammonium present in soil takes place through an enzymatic process. Without the consumption of ammonium through these enzymes the decomposition to ammonia would not happen and the plant would not be able to absorb it in order to grow and produce veggies/fruits, and this is just one vital compound needed for the plant growth. Therefore without the understanding the chemical process of fertilizers and compost, we would not be able to produce the amount of produce needed to support life on earth, making it necessary information for modern farming.

Gardening is hard work and you can easily fail at it.  But knowledge of horticulture will determine if you will be successful at it. The golden rule for a luscious beautiful garden is to have luscious dark beautiful soil.  In the article Soil Science, it gives a brief explanation of elements that are needed for all higher plant life, which are listed as follows (Jariel 2012): H-Hydrogen, C-Carbon, O-Oxygen, which are found in the air, then there are 14 other elements: N-Nitrogen, P-Phosphorus, K-Potassium, Ca-Calcium, Mg-Magnesium, S-Sulfur, B-Boron, Cu-copper, Chlorine, Fe-Iron, Mn-Manganese, Mo-Molybdenum Zn-Zinc, and Ni. Some of these elements are referred to as macro-nutrients because they require a larger amount for plants to grow these are; N, P, K, Ca, Mg and S. All the others are micronutrients. Elements from the soil are absorbed through the plants roots and they are absorbed easily in compound form of anions and cations. Some examples are as follows: Ammonium-NH4, K, Ca, Fe, Mn, Mg, Cu, Ni, and Zn which are all examples of cations because they have a positive charge. The anions, which have a negative charge, are absorbed in compound form and are listed as follows: Ammonia-NO3, Hydrogen Phosphate-H2PO4, Sulfate-SO4, and Cl. These are elements that are found in modern-day fertilizers, and compost and are required for yearly growth of gardens. As we have learned from history, without reintroducing nutrients to the soil serious events such as The Dust Bowl can eventually happen. One cause of that national disaster was over cultivation which caused the nutrients and minerals to be depleted from the soil.  After depleting their soil, farmers found they couldn’t grow crops and eventually just abandoned their farms. Without the land being maintained, wind eroded the soil, which caused the huge dust storms in the 1930’s.

We have learned much about amending soil and reintroducing nutrients to the soil since that time.  In the modern-day many food-producing areas of the world are facing drought that is placing a giant strain on farmers to product the amount of food needed to meet the demand.

In conclusion it blows my mind that wine and gardening share similar aspects such as the same chemical decomposition reaction but are very different.  Both are dependent on this same chemistry in order for them to even exist.  This study is the foundation for all life, we would cease to exist without the chemical processes that chemistry explains. When I first started this course I went home and cried because I was in a panic that I was in way over my head, and I probably am a little bit still.  Although increasing my understanding and knowledge and expressing it an academic, written form has been truly mind opening. Thank you to my teachers Michael McFavilen, and Gregg Fields. I appreciate everything you have taught me, and I’m not just saying that in hopes that you will give me a great grade.


Issitt, M. L. (2014). Viticulture and Enology. In D. R. Franceschetti (Ed.), Applied Science:Technology (pp. 557-561). Ipswich, MA: Salem Press. Retrieved from

Renneboog, R. M. (2012). Zymology and Zymurgy. In D. R. Franceschetti (Ed.), Applied Science (Vol. 5, pp. 1992-1998). Ipswich, MA: Salem Press. Retrieved from

Jariel, D. M. (2012). Soil Science. In D. R. Franceschetti (Ed.), Applied Science (Vol. 4, pp.1666-1671). Ipswich, MA: Salem Press. Retrieved from

Corwin, C. H. (2014). Introduction of Chemistry. Upper Saddle, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.

The wine Wankers. (No title, 2016) (Featured Image) Retrieved

Reddit. Wine Meems, Where Wine Drinkers Go to Laugh. (Science Kitty) (No Title and Year Unknown) Retrieved from

Breslyn W. (2013) Finding the Ionic Charge for Elements.(Photograph) Retrieved from

Open Window Learning. (2016) (Photograph) Four Basic Types of Chemical Reactions. Retrieved from

Elsevier Inc. (2016) The Cutting Edge of Grape and Wine Biotechnology Retrieved from


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